Prescription Medications Most Commonly Abused

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, prescription medications are the most commonly abused drugs in the United States. A lot of this abuse occurs because many people don’t realize that prescription drugs can be just as dangerous as illegal drugs. But prescription drug abuse can lead to addiction, overdose, and even death. The good news is knowing and understanding the most commonly abused prescription medications can help you and your loved ones avoid being a victim of prescription drug abuse.

Why Do People Abuse Prescription Drugs?

Many people abuse prescription drugs because they think it will help them have more fun, lose weight and stay fit. Some college students abuse prescription drugs because they believe the substances will help them study better. But, in reality, abusing prescription drugs makes things worse, not better.

When taken excessively or incorrectly, prescription drugs can cause serious problems, including addiction, overdose, and even death. Abusing prescription drugs can also lead to other health problems, such as liver damage, stomach ulcers, and high blood pressure. Additionally, abusing prescription drugs can interact with other medications individuals may be taking, potentially causing dangerous side effects.

The Most Commonly Abused Prescription Drugs

The most commonly abused medications fall into three categories: prescription painkillers — also known as opioids — stimulants, and sedatives.

Painkillers. Prescription painkillers, such as oxycodone and hydrocodone, are often prescribed for the treatment of chronic pain. However, they can be highly addictive and are often abused for their ability to produce feelings of euphoria. Some of the most commonly abused prescription painkillers include:

  • Morphine
  • Codeine
  • OxyContin
  • Vicodin
  • Demerol
  • Fentanyl
  • Hydromorphone
  • Methadone

Stimulants, such as Adderall and Ritalin, are typically prescribed to treat attention deficit disorder (ADHD). However, they can be misused for their ability to increase alertness and energy levels. Some of the most commonly abused stimulants include:

  • Adderall
  • Ritalin
  • Concerta
  • Biphetamine
  • Dexedrine

Sedatives, such as Xanax and Valium, are sometimes prescribed to treat anxiety disorders. However, they can be abused for their ability to produce feelings of relaxation and calmness. Commonly abused prescription sedatives include:

  • Xanax
  • Valium
  • Ambien
  • Lunesta

All three types of medications can have serious side effects when abused, including addiction, overdose, and death.

What’s So Dangerous About These Medications?

Prescription medications are powerful tools that can help to ease pain, treat illness, and save lives. However, they also come with a risk of serious side effects.

  • Painkillers. While prescription painkillers can be effective in the short term, they can be dangerous if used long-term. Some of the potential long-term effects of taking painkillers include liver damage, kidney damage, and gastrointestinal problems. Abusing prescription painkillers can also be fatal. In fact, more than 130 people in the United States die every day from overdosing on opioids.
  • Stimulants. Most people are familiar with the short-term effects of these drugs: increased alertness, energy, and focus. However, what many people don’t realize is that these same effects can lead to problems down the road. Long-term prescription stimulant abuse can lead to several serious health consequences. For example, stimulants can lead to insomnia, anxiety, and increased heart rate. Additionally, long-term use of stimulants can lead to cardiovascular problems, such as an irregular heartbeat or high blood pressure. In rare cases, stimulant use can even lead to psychosis. In extreme cases, they can cause heart failure or stroke. Stimulants can also be addictive, and people who abuse them may experience withdrawal symptoms when they try to quit.
  • Sedatives. Since sedatives slow down the body’s systems, doctors prescribe them to help people who are struggling with anxiety or insomnia, as they can help to relax the mind and promote sleep. However, chronic use of sedatives can lead to memory problems, high blood pressure, and liver damage. Sedatives can interact dangerously with other drugs, and they can make it difficult to think clearly or respond quickly in an emergency.

Who Abuses Prescription Medications The Most?

Every day, people of all ages and backgrounds turn to prescription drugs to help them cope with pain, anxiety, and other issues. However, research has shown some correlations between certain groups of people and certain prescription medications.

  • Painkillers/Opioids. Research reveals that nearly one-third of young adults between the ages of 18 and 25 have abused prescription painkillers in the past year. This is a significant increase from previous years, and it suggests that young adults are at a higher risk for addiction than any other age group. There are several reasons young adults might be more likely to abuse painkillers. For one, they may be more likely to have access to them. Prescription painkillers are often prescribed for chronic pain or injuries, and young adults are more likely to suffer from these conditions. Additionally, young adults may be more likely to experiment with drugs and alcohol, making them more likely to try prescription painkillers as well. Whatever the reasons, it’s clear that young adults are at a higher risk for prescription painkiller abuse.
  • Stimulants. The people who abuse prescription stimulants the most are young adults between the ages of 18 and 25. Similar to opioids, it is likely because this age group is more likely to have access to these drugs, as well as being more likely to experiment with substances. Most people who abuse prescription stimulants often do so in order to improve their performance at work or school.
  • Sedatives. People with a history of substance abuse are more likely to abuse sedatives than those who don’t have a history of substance abuse. Sedative abuse is also more common among people with mental health disorders such as anxiety and depression. People who have a family member with a substance abuse problem are also more likely to develop problems with sedative abuse.

Signs Of Prescription Drug Abuse

One of the most difficult things about prescription drug abuse is that it’s hard to spot the signs. Unlike illegal drugs, these substances are prescribed by a doctor and are typically easy to obtain. However, just because a drug is legal doesn’t mean it’s safe. When misused, prescription drugs can have serious long-term effects on your health. So how can you tell if someone you know is abusing these drugs? There are a few key signs to look out for.

First, the person may take the drug more frequently or in higher doses than prescribed. They may also isolate themselves from friends and family or experience drastic changes in mood or behavior. If you suspect that someone you know is abusing prescription drugs, don’t hesitate to reach out for help. By getting them the treatment they need, you can help them avoid long-term damage to their health.

Let Us Help You Regain Control Of Your Life

Prescription drug abuse is a serious problem, but it’s one that can be overcome with the right help. The StoneRidge team is dedicated to helping people break free from prescription drug abuse and live happy, healthy lives. If you’re ready to take the first step toward recovery, we’re here for you. Contact us today to learn more about our programs and how we can help you or someone you love regain control of their life.

Innovative, Evidence-Based Therapies

Because mental health and addiction concerns are so often interconnected, we utilize research-based approaches with evidence-based outcomes that promote overall healing and recovery.

Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS)

This low-impact magnetic stimulation activates neurons inside the brain, relieving symptoms associated with depression and anxiety.

qEEG/Brain Mapping

Using brain scanning and readings, we create a map of our patients’ brains, helping us develop more targeted and effective treatments.


This process assists patients in visualizing their own brain functionality through continuous EEG readings.

Spravato Therapy

We use carefully monitored doses of Spravato to help patients struggling with complex mental health disorders, including severe depression.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

Patients use this practice to help reframe intrusive or negative thought patterns and develop coping techniques for long-term recovery.

Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)

This practice helps patients learn to regulate emotions, communicate more effectively, and process their own thoughts and feelings..

Eye Movement Desensitization (EMDR)

Licensed and trained therapists guide patients through this technique for managing stress and anxiety on an ongoing basis.

Individual Therapy

Patients experience one-on-one therapy sessions with a licensed therapist to provide a safe and private place to recover and heal.

Group/Family Therapy

Patients can practice the skills and techniques they have learned in treatment with others in a safe, therapist-guided space.

Contact StoneRidge Centers

5940 E. Copper Hill Dr. Ste B & E, Prescott Valley, AZ. 86314

We exercise progressive, leading brain science in our treatment approach for patients in our community and across the country who are struggling with mental health and addiction challenges.