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What Are The Most Abused Prescription Drugs?

Prescription drugs are the most easily accessible addictive substance, which is why over 15 million adults were estimated to have abused prescription drugs in 2014 alone. The number is continuing to increase, as it can be difficult to track prescription abuse when the market is constantly growing with new drugs and prescriptions being made regularly.

Determining what the most abused prescription drugs are depends on identifying trends amongst patients seeking treatment. Please call 800-487-1890 (Who Answers?) for help with prescription drug abuse, and keep in mind what the most abused prescription drugs are and how they can affect your treatment.


Prescription opioids, drugs that are designed to relieve pain, are the single largest category of prescription drug abuse. The National Institute on Drug Addiction states that many prescription opioids have a similar origin to heroin, and thus are naturally addictive. They are also some of the most commonly prescribed drugs, as they are versatile in their application and dosing.

Abused Prescription Drugs

Opioid painkillers are one of the most abused prescription drugs.

Some of the most abused opioid prescription drugs include:

  • Fentanyl, which is commonly prescribed for cancer patients (brand name Duragesic)
  • Hydrocodone (brand name Vicodin)
  • Oxycodone (brand name OxyContin)
  • Oxymorphone (brand name Opana)
  • Propoxyphene (brand name Darvon)
  • Hydromorphone (brand name Dilaudid)
  • Meperidine (brand name Demerol)
  • Diphenoxylate (brand name Lomotil)

Many prescription opioids are mixed or combined with other drugs, both prescription and illicit, in an attempt to boost the effects of the drugs. They have also been used as a replacement for illicit opioids, as they are often far easier to access and their usage has some degree of legal status.

CNS Depressants

CNS depressants or sedatives are usually prescribed for anxiety and sleep disorders. Like opioids, they have a numbing effect on the user and are fairly accessible, making them prone to abuse. They have, unfortunately, been used as date rape drugs, according to the National Institute on Drug Addiction and the Drug Enforcement Agency, with sedatives such as GHB and Rohypnol being the most common. Other CNS depressants include:

  • Pentorbarbital sodium (brand name Nembutal)
  • Diazepam (brand name Valium)
  • Alprazolam (brand name Xanax)

When CNS depressants are used as sleep aids, many patients become dependent and are unable to sleep without their prescription, leading to abuse of the drug.

3 Commonly Abused Types of Prescription Drugs


Many stimulants are used to treat conditions like ADHD in children, teens, and adults. Other conditions treated with stimulants include asthma and neurological disorders. They are designed to increase a person’s alertness, energy, and attention, making them popular with users who feel like they need a boost of energy in their lives.

Stimulants are commonly misused by students seeking assistance with attention and alertness in their studies. The most commonly abused types are known as:

  • Dextroamphetamine (brand name Dexedrine)
  • Methylphenidate (brand names Ritalin and Concerta)
  • Amphetamines (brand name Adderall)

Some abusers of stimulants will have a legitimate reason for the prescription, but will use it to increase their focus for tasks unrelated to their reason.

If you or a loved one is struggling with an addiction, please call 800-487-1890 (Who Answers?) to receive help. You will be able to speak with one of our caring specialists about what treatment options are available for you.

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