Prescription drugs are something that most of us need at some point in our lives. When taken correctly, most do exactly what they should without repercussions. Yet, many prescription drugs are addictive and cause adverse effects. Here is what to know about prescription drugs. What are some of the most addictive, that facts and figures, and how to help stay safer from a dependency issue.

What Is Prescription Drug Abuse?

Prescription drug abuse is when someone takes a prescription drug in a manner or dosage other than what was prescribed. It can also be abuse to take someone else’s prescription drugs, even if you were prescribed the same thing. It doesn’t matter if you’re using it for its intended use or using it to get high.

One of the problems is with people being under the assumption that just because a doctor prescribed them for you, they’re safe. It is also commonly thought that prescription drugs are safer than street drugs like heroin or cocaine. While in some instances this may be accurate, it is also accurate that there is a prescription drug abuse epidemic in our country.

What Are the Statistics?

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse:

Although most people take prescription medications responsibly, in 2017, an estimated 18 million people (more than 6 percent of those aged 12 and older) have misused such medications at least once in the past year. According to results from the 2017 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, an estimated 2 million Americans misused prescription pain relievers for the first time within the past year, which averages to approximately 5,480 initiates per day. Additionally, more than one million misused prescription stimulants, 1.5 million misused tranquilizers, and 271,000 misused sedatives for the first time.

Even more alarming is the fact that the highest rate of prescription drug abuse is among young adults and teens.

Commonly Abused Prescription Drugs

The most commonly abused prescription drugs are opioids and stimulants. Opioids encompass pain relievers like Vicodin, Fentanyl, and OxyContin while stimulants may include drugs like Adderall or Ritalin. Of course, there are other prescription drugs that are abused that do not fall in those categories. These include drugs like Percocet, Ambien, Trazadone, and more.


One of the reasons opioids are commonly abused is that they release endorphins. These are our natural neurotransmitters that are related to pleasure. These endorphins make us feel well, they dull pain, and boost pleasure. All of those feelings are ideal for anyone and with opioids creating a false sense of this happening, it is only natural to want more.

While some people take opioids as directed and never become addiction, others may do everything exactly as the doctor recommends yet still become dependent. This depends on a lot of factors such as your personal history or the amount of time you have taken them. Simply put, some are more vulnerable than others although it is not an exact science to predicting who may or may not have problems.


Stimulants are another type of commonly abused prescription drugs. As noted at the government’s drug abuse site:

Prescription stimulants increase the activity of the brain chemicals dopamine and norepinephrine. Dopamine is involved in the reinforcement of rewarding behaviors. Norepinephrine affects blood vessels, blood pressure and heart rate, blood sugar, and breathing.

Similar to opioids, stimulants reinforce rewarding behavior in the form of dopamine. They also increase energy and alertness, which are other reasons they are commonly abused.

Other Prescription Drugs Commonly Abused

Of course, not every prescription drug sought after is necessarily an opioid or a stimulant. People can also become dependent upon drugs like Ambien or Methadone. Each of these drugs are quite different from one another. In this example, Ambien is used for insomnia and Methadone is a drug used for those addicted to heroin and narcotic pain medications. It is important to note though, that Methadone is an opioid itself. It is different because it works more slowly than other opioids. While it still activates and occupies opioid receptors, it does not create the euphoria.

How Does Addiction Occur?

No one sets out to become addicted to a drug, including prescription drugs. Almost everyone either takes it as directed or simply uses it to help them out of some kind of problem like concentration issues or insomnia. The problem with these drugs include people thinking they are safer than other drugs and how easy it is to become dependent, even when taken correctly.

Some might ask why these drugs are even prescribed in the first place if they can cause so much harm. Like with any drug, there are side effects and building up a tolerance is one. Doctors must weigh out the risks based on the patient’s personal history, etc. Yet, a good example is someone with a back injury. They need a strong pain killer to help them live their life yet those strong pain killers often come with a price.

And while not everyone who takes prescription drugs becomes addicted, long-term use can lead to addiction simply by the way our body and brain reacts to and adapts to chronic drug exposure. A person builds up tolerance over time and has to have more of the drug to achieve the same affects.

How To Spot a Problem

The Center for Disease Control has release a statistic stating that from 1999 to 2014 there have been more than 165,000 drug overdoses in the United States.

If you or someone you care about is addicted to prescription drugs, there are warning signs. Here are a few mannerisms that may indicate a problem.

Some of the physical signs include:

  • Fatigue or drowsiness or in some cases, lack of sleep
  • Constipation
  • Poor coordination
  • Nausea
  • Confusion

There are also other indicators of a problem and these indicators are not physical but instead of certain mannerisms that some do when an addiction is present.

  • Prescription Shopping. This is when someone goes from doctor to doctor to gain a new prescription. Often because their current doctor will no longer write the prescription.
  • Losing Prescriptions. This is another indicator where a person will “lose” their prescription to gain another. In recent years, this is harder to do due to guidelines on how much of certain prescriptions are allowed to be dispensed to an individual.
  • Counterfeit Prescriptions. This is included under stealing, forging, creating, or selling prescriptions.
  • Mood Swings. This includes becoming hostile to others.
  • Taking More Than Prescribed. This is often one of the first signs of addiction. A person may start taking more of the drug in order to get the same results. This shows a tolerance to the prescription drug.
  • Poor Decisions. A person addicted to prescription drugs may start to make poor life choices. This can include being riskier than usual and doing things they might not otherwise do.
  • Appearing High. If a person does not usually get high but is showing signs of being high with their prescription drugs this may indicate a problem. This is not the normal person who just shows a reaction to their drug but instead one who takes more than usual to get high.

Of course, the signs of dependency or an addiction problem will vary depending on what type of drug is being abused. For example, abusing depressants is going to have different symptoms from someone who is abusing a stimulant.

Staying Safer From Dependence

Some people seem to have a propensity to addiction. While others can take their prescription drugs without a single problem, others become dependent on them. There are a few things you can try to do to curb dependence. This includes only taking what is prescribed to you and exactly how the doctor prescribes it. You may also stop taking the drug if it is not needed. Of course, always consult your doctor before stopping a drug cold turkey.

Transformations Treatment Center Has the Help You Need

If you or someone you love has a dependency to prescription drugs, we can help. We provide a variety of utilize approaches to provide comprehensive, compassionate treatment for drug addiction. For anyone who believes he or she may have a drug addiction or substance use disorder, a team of caring and professional staff is available for consultation. Call 877-560-7980 to find out more about available programs. Or, simply contact us here.


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