Most Common Abused

Most Commonly Abused Prescription Drugs

Prescription drug addiction is increasingly more common in the United States with every passing year. The more often prescriptions are passed out for stress, pain, weight management, anxiety and other issues, the more likely it is that prescription drug addiction will develop.

When prescription drug addiction is an issue, the only way to turn your life around and regain control of your day-to-day experiences and your future is to enroll in a prescription drug rehab. If you need help finding a prescription drug addiction treatment program near you, contact us at our mental health hotline number listed above.

Top 10 Most Common Prescription Drugs of Addiction

According to the number of emergency room admissions that included prescription drug addiction problems, the top 10 most common prescription drugs of addiction in the United States include:

  1. Xanax
  2. Hydrocodone
  3. Benzodiazepines
  4. Oxycodone
  5. Methadone
  6. Klonopin
  7. Darvocet / Darvon
  8. Amphetamines
  9. Ativan
  10. Valium

Other drugs close to the top of the list were meth amphetamines like Desoxyn and Trazodone, a depressant.

The two major risks that all classes of prescription drugs share are the potential to cause an overdose and death. Each class of prescription drug can lead to fatality for different reasons under various circumstances.Chronic and acute health problems are also a risk of every class of prescription drug.
Prescription Drug Addiction


Opiates – or opioid-based medications – are the painkillers that are so devastatingly addictive. Vicodin (hydrocodone, number two on the list), OxyContin (oxycodone, number four on the list), and Percodan/ Percocet (also a form of oxycodone) are all prescribed for pain management, both chronic and acute issues. The drugs block the pain messages to the brain so that the individual no longer feels it. Additionally, a euphoric feeling results, erasing depression and worry. This feeling can be addictive – many crave it psychologically after the first use. It is estimated that, over a 20 year period, the number of opiate prescriptions increased by about 350 percent – when the population increased by only 19 percent. This skyrocketing rate of prescriptions is a large reason why so many now need treatment for OxyContin addiction, methadone addiction, Lorcet addiction and more.

Opiate Abuse Dangers

Thousands of prescription drug users overdose on opiates every year. The danger is that small amounts of opiates can be lethal, so when the drug is not used as directed by a doctor, fatal amounts can easily be ingested. Many opiate painkillers such as OxyContin are given in time-release capsules, so when a user crushes the pill and ingests it, too much of the drug is released into the system at once causing overdose and death. Too much of an opiate drug will cause breathing to slow until it eventually ceases altogether.

There is another potentially deadly complication with opiates: some opiates have codeine and also contain acetaminophen or acetylsalicylic acid (ASA). Taking too much of an opiate combined with these chemicals can cause fatal liver damage. Too much of an opiate with acetaminophen or ASA can cause serious confusion, convulsions, coma and death.

Long-term use of opiates causes many permanent health problems. The heart and circulatory system may become clogged or infected, the lungs may develop various types of pneumonia, and the blood vessels leading to lungs, liver or brain may become clogged and cause deadly infections. In men, opiate addiction may cause low testosterone levels and, in women, may lead to a variety of pregnancy complications.


Stimulant prescription drug addiction begins when an individual seeks treatment for fatigue and decreased alertness. Common stimulants – Adderall, Concerta, Dexedrine, Cylert, Ritalin – are often prescribed for ADD or ADHD in children since they have the opposite effect, a calming effect, on children rather than the stimulating effect they have on adults. Parents of children with ADHD may lift a few pills from their children’s prescription to augment their own – in fact, many stimulant addictions start that way. Cravings for more and more of the drug can begin almost instantly. This means that stimulant addiction is often in the works from the first use, no matter how innocent, well-intentioned or short-term the reason (See related: Women Prescription Drug Addiction Treatment).

Health Risks

In addition to overdose and death, each type of prescription drug addiction carries a laundry list of potential health risks that range from temporary to permanent.  Whatever their form, stimulants increase respiration, heart rate and blood pressure, and their abuse can cause lethal physical effects. An overdose of stimulants can result in chest pains, convulsions, paralysis, coma and death.

Other health issues related to the abuse of stimulants include excessive sweating, vomiting, tremors, anxiety, hostility and aggression. In severe cases, suicidal/homicidal tendencies, convulsions and cardiac arrest are risks as well. Stimulants in women can also cause congenital abnormalities, miscarriage, premature labor and underweight babies.


Sedative addiction is exceedingly common as this type of drug is often prescribed for anxiety, panic attacks, and insomnia. Common issues that are difficult to quantify, sedative prescriptions are often open-ended with doses that climb based on the individual’s need. Need is determined by the subjective opinion of the individual and, for this reason, dosages are often higher than necessary and spurred by psychological cravings and a physical tolerance. Some of the most commonly prescribed sedatives of addiction include Ativan (number nine on the list), Valium (number 10 on the list), Xanax (number one on the list) and Klonopin (number six on the list).

Sedative Dependency Risks

Overdose from sedatives is the least likely of all three drug classes. However, combinations of high doses of sedatives with alcohol or other drugs are particularly dangerous, and may lead to severe complications such as coma or death. The most common symptoms of overdose include impaired balance, slurred speech, respiratory depression and coma.

There is a high risk of death, however, during withdrawal from extended use of sedatives. Detox from long-term sedative abuse requires medical supervision. Usually, the withdrawal process is handled by slowly reducing the patient’s dose.  They may also switch the patient from a fast-acting version to a long-acting form of the drug. By following this process, full withdrawal may take as long as six months.

Sedatives have a profound effect on how a person learns and remembers. Sedatives inhibit short-term memory, especially the ability to recall specific events according to time and place. The abuse of benzodiazepines can seriously impair a person’s memory in regard to work, school and family. After long-term use of sedatives, a patient’s cognitive abilities rarely return back to full capacity.

Sedatives also have serious negative health consequences during pregnancy. They easily pass through the placenta and have the same effect on the developing fetus as they do on the mother. In addition, newborn babies often go through difficult withdrawal symptoms after they are born.

Prescription Drug Addiction TreatmentMost Common Treatments

There are as many types of prescription drug addiction treatments as there are types of prescription drug addiction. Prescription drug detox offers medical treatment for physical dependence upon any type of prescription drug. Prescription drug addiction treatment and therapy are another kind of treatment – the focus here is the psychological cravings and dependence that can begin with the first euphoric high. Prescription drug addiction treatment programs that include both detox and addiction treatment as well as aftercare services like counseling, 12 step meetings, sober living homes and more are another type of treatment. Here, prescription drug addicts have everything they need to heal after prescription drug addiction.

Dual Diagnosis

There is a strong relationship between the development of both mental illness and addiction to prescription pills. In fact, over half of those with a substance abuse issue have at least one diagnosed mental illness, while nearly one-third of people with mental disorders struggle with addiction to one or more substances. This means there are countless numbers of individuals dealing with overlapping mental illness and prescription pill addiction, since prescription painkillers are the second most abused drugs in the US today.

These co-occurring issues are known as a Dual Diagnosis. A Dual Diagnosis presents many extra challenges for those undergoing rehab for addiction and the professionals treating them. Co-occurring illnesses also are a huge concern because these individuals are at a much higher risk for suicide.

Risk Factors

First and foremost, mental illness is a risk factor for prescription pill addiction and vice versa. This is why anyone suffering with either issue is at risk for developing a Dual Diagnosis.

For example, prescription medications carry a danger of addiction, but that threat increases when a drug such as Xanax is prescribed for the mental illness of severe anxiety. Prescription pills such as Xanax can create uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms when too much time lapses between doses. This situation cause more extreme anxiety than the pill was originally meant to treat. This may cause the individual to take a higher dose of Xanax, which intensifies future withdrawal symptoms. Thus, creating a vicious cycle of mental illness and prescription medication addiction.

The following is a list of additional factors that are simultaneously risks for both prescription pill addiction and mental illness. Each of these problems strains an individual’s health and/or ability to cope with life’s pressures.

  • Poor impulse control
  • Risk-seeking personality
  • Poor social skills
  • High stress environment
  • Low self-esteem
  • Poor support network
  • Family history of addiction or mental illness

Get Help: Call Now

If you would like assistance finding a prescription drug detox, outpatient prescription drug addiction treatment, inpatient prescription drug rehab or drug counseling and sober living after care services, we can help. Call us at the phone number listed above and find out how you can change your life with prescription drug rehab.