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Commonly Abused Prescription Medications

List of commonly abused prescription medications and  effects of short and long-term use.

List of commonly abused prescription medications and the effects of short and long-term use.

Although many prescription drugs can be abused, there are several classifications of medications that are commonly abused. Opioids (painkillers), CNS Depressants (anxiety and sleep medications), and Stimulants (ADHD drugs).

Some Commonly Prescribed Medications: Use and Consequences

Opioids

  • Oxycodone (OxyContin, Percodan, Percocet)
  • Propoxyphene (Darvon)
  • Hydrocodone (Vicodin, Lortab, Lorcet)
  • Hydromorphone (Dilaudid)
  • Meperidine (Demerol)
  • Diphenoxylate (Lomotil)
  • Morphine (Kadian, Avinza, MS Contin)
  • Codeine
  • Fentanyl (Duragesic)
  • Methadone

CNS Depressants

Barbiturates

  • Mephobarbital (Mebaral)
  • Pentobarbital sodium (Nembutal)

Benzodiazepines

Stimulants

Generally prescribed for

  • Postsurgical pain relief
  • Management of acute or chronic pain
  • Relief of cough and diarrhea
Generally prescribed for
  • Anxiety
  • Tension
  • Panic attacks
  • Acute stress reactions
  • Sleep disorders
  • Anesthesia (at high doses)
Generally prescribed for
  • Narcolepsy
  • Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • Depression that does not respond to other treatment
In the body

Opioids attach to opioid receptors in the brain and spinal cord, blocking the perception of pain.

In the body

CNS depressants slow brain activity through actions on the GABA system, producing a calming effect.

In the body

Stimulants enhance brain activity, causing an increase in alertness, attention, and energy.

Effects of short-term use
  • Alleviates pain
  • Drowsiness
  • Constipation
  • Depressed respiration (depending on dose)
Effects of short-term use
  • A "sleepy" and uncoordinated feeling during the first few days; as the body becomes accustomed (tolerant) to the effects, these feelings diminish.
Effects of short-term use
  • Elevated blood pressure
  • Increased heart rate
  • Increased respiration
  • Suppressed appetite
  • Sleep deprivation
Effects of long-term use
  • Potential for physical dependence and addiction
Effects of long-term use
  • Potential for physical dependence and addiction
Effects of long-term use
  • Potential for physical dependence and addiction
Possible negative effects
  • Severe respiratory depression or death following a large single dose
Possible negative effects
  • Seizures following a rebound in brain activity after reducing or discontinuing use
Possible negative effects
  • Dangerously high body temperature or an irregular heartbeat after taking high doses
  • Cardiovascular failure or lethal seizures
  • For some stimulants, hostility or feelings of paranoia after taking high doses repeatedly over a short period of time
Should not be used with

Other substances that cause CNS depression, including

  • Alcohol
  • Antihistamines
  • Barbiturates
  • Benzodiazepines
  • General anesthetics
Should not be used with

Other substances that cause CNS depression, including

  • Alcohol
  • Prescription opioid pain medicines
  • Some OTC cold and allergy medications
Should not be used with
  • OTC decongestant medications
  • Antidepressants, unless supervised by a physician
  • Some asthma medications

 


 

next: Signs and Symptoms of Addiction to Prescription Drugs
~ all prescription drug addiction articles
~ all articles on addictions

APA Reference
Writer, H. (2008, December 23). Commonly Abused Prescription Medications, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2019, August 24 from https://www.healthyplace.com/addictions/prescription-drugs/commonly-abused-prescription-medications

Last Updated: April 25, 2019

Medically reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

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