Tully Hill®

Prescription Drug Addiction

Prescription drugs account for the second most commonly abused category of drugs, behind marijuana and ahead of cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine, and other drugs.  Prescription drug abuse poses a unique challenge because of the need to balance prevention, education, and enforcement, with the need for legitimate access to controlled substance prescription drugs.  The three classes of prescription drugs that are most commonly abused and the risks involved with each are:

Opioids, which are most often prescribed to treat pain – examples include: codeine, oxycodone (Oxycontin and Percocet), and morphine (Kadian and Avinza).

  • High risk for addiction and overdose – this is a major concern, particularly for recently synthesized slow-release formulations, which abusers override by crushing the pills and injecting or snorting the contents, heightening their risk for respiratory depression and death.
  • Dangerous combination effects – combining opioids with other drugs, including alcohol, can intensify respiratory distress.
  • Heightened HIV risk – injecting opioids increases the risk of HIV and other infectious diseases through use of unsterile or shared equipment.

Central Nervous System (CNS) depressants, which are used to treat anxiety and sleep disorders – examples include: barbiturates (Mebaral and Nembutal) and benzodiazepines (Valium and Xanax).

  • Addiction and withdrawal dangers – these drugs can be highly addictive and, in chronic users, can bring about severe withdrawal symptoms that must be properly managed by a medical professional.
  • Risk of overdose – overdose can cause severe breathing problems and lead to death, especially when these drugs are combined with other medications or alcohol.

Stimulants, which are prescribed to treat the sleep disorder narcolepsy, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and obesity – examples include: dextroamphetamine (Dexedrine and Adderall) and methylphenidate (Ritalin and Concerta).