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Most Commonly Abused Prescription Drugs

The most commonly abused prescription drugs treat legitimate treatment of chronic pain, illness, and mental health conditions. Unfortunately, many of the prescription drugs in medicine cabinets across the country are misused and abused, leading to addiction.

It is a disturbing fact that misuse and abuse can be unintentional and lead to severe problems. Therefore, educating the public concerning the dangers of prescription drugs is vital. Teaching people how to properly use them can lead to developing a substance use disorder is imperative to help create sober living.

Prescription Drug Abuse Overview

Prescription drug use is at an all-time high in the United States, with opioids leading the list of commonly abused prescription drugs. Chronic pain, mental health conditions, and sleep and weight disorders have prescription drug treatment involving medicines that can quickly lead to an abusive habit.

Non-compliance with drug regimens and the lack of physician oversight in the number of prescriptions patients receive are significant and complex problems. Again, education and individual responsibility for the treatment of these conditions must increase to begin to reduce the chance of addiction.

Opioid Prescription Medications

Opioid medications are natural and synthetic compounds containing chemicals that relax the body and relieve pain. According to The Centers for Disease Control, in 2021, there were approximately 51.6 million people who were experiencing chronic pain. 17.1 million people with high-impact chronic pain, which indicates substantial limitations on daily activities. While there is a considerable need for treatment for chronic pain, these opioids are commonly abused prescription drugs.

Commonly Abused Prescription Opioids

Commonly abused prescription drugs in the opioid class include the following information from the Drug Enforcement Agency:

  • Fentanyl: Brand names Actiq® and Duragesic® dispensed in lozenges, patches, and tablet form. Fentanyl is the treatment for intense pain, usually for cancer patients.
  • Hydrocodone: The brand name Vicodin® Lortab and Lorcet is generally dispensed in tablet, capsule, or liquid forms for treating moderate to severe pain; hydrocodone is one of the most widely prescribed and abused prescription drugs.
  • Methadone: Brand name Dolophine® and Methadose® available in liquid, powder, and diskette form, methadone is for pain management or treatment of cravings and withdrawal from a substance inaddiction treatment programs.
  • Morphine: Brand name MS Contin®, Kadian®, Avinza®, Roxanol®, and Duramorph® for treatment of pain, morphine comes in tablets, capsules, and injectable form.
  • Oxycodone: Brand names Percocet®, Percodan®, Oxycontin®, and Oxycodone® are typically administered orally or injectable for pain management in moderate to severe pain.
  • Codeine: Brand names Empirin w/Codeine, Fiorinal w/Codeine, Robitussin A-C, and Tylenol w/Codeine, forms of ingestion are swallowed in combination with other drugs and injected to treat cough and moderate pain.
  • Hydromorphone: The brand name Dilaudid® is administered in tablets or injectables for pain management.
  • Meperidine: Brand name Demerol® with oral or injectable administration for moderate to severe pain.
  • Oxymorphone: Brand name Opana® with tablets or time-released capsules for managing moderate to severe pain.

Effects of Prescription Opioids

Opioids are among the commonly abused prescription drugs that cause respiratory problems that result in starving the brain of oxygen. Hypoxia can have both short and long-term psychological and neurological effects that can lead to permanent brain damage and potential death.

Unintentional misuse occurs when tolerance for the drug develops, requiring a higher dosage for the same results to appear. Withdrawal from these drugs can be uncomfortable and lead you to need a professional detox program. 


The Drug Enforcement Agency reports benzodiazepines depress the central nervous system and impact the neurotransmitter gamma-aminobutyric acid, thereby decreasing brain activity.

Benzodiazepines are prescription drugs for the treatment of anxiety, muscle spasms, and seizures. Unintentional misuse and abuse can develop quickly from building a tolerance to the dosage. Therefore, physicians need to monitor their patients who are using benzos.

They are commonly abused prescription drugs and include the following information, including street names for the drugs:

  • Alprazolam: Brand name Xanax® presents in pill form for the treatment of anxiety and panic disorders.
  • Lorazepam: The brand name Ativan® is available in liquid, pill, and extended-release capsule form for the treatment of anxiety, insomnia, and situational extreme stress, i.e., before a medical procedure.
  • Clonazepam: The brand name Klonopin® available in tablets for treating panic, seizure disorders, and insomnia.
  • Diazepam: The brand name Valium® is available in tablets to treat anxiety, seizures, muscle spasms, and twitching.
  • Temazepam: Brand name Restoril® is available for oral administration in capsules to treat insomnia.
  • Triazolam: The brand name is Halcion®, and is available in tablets for the treatment of insomnia.
  • Chlordiazepoxide: The brand name is Librium®, and is ingested through pills and capsules to treat anxiety, insomnia, and withdrawal symptoms from abuse of alcohol or other substances.


Z-drugs opened in the drug market in the 1990s, these prescription drugs are only approved for the treatment of insomnia. The risks are high with these drugs for adverse reactions if taken with other drugs or alcohol.
Misuse of these prescription drugs can cause accidents or injuries because of impairment. Additionaly, these sedatives are among the commonly abused prescription drugs that are dangerous if used other than directed.

  • Zolpidem: Brand name Ambien® taken by capsules for treating insomnia.
  • Zaleplon: Brand name Sonata® taken by capsules for treating insomnia.
  • Eszopiclone: Brand name Lunesta® taken by capsules for treating insomnia.

Prescription Stimulants

An escalation of unintentional abuse of prescription drugs is presenting new challenges for pharmacists and physicians while destroying lifestyles. Behavioral changes occur as tolerance increases for the drug, and to support their drug habit, users experience frustration when the prescription is not enough.

Seeking new avenues for the acquisition of additional prescription stimulants may induce doctor shopping or seeking drugs from friends or on the streets. Unfortunately, some people invent new problems to receive other legitimate prescription drugs.

Long-term prescription stimulants can include the following:

  • Amphetamine: The brands Adzenys XR-ODT® and Dyanavel XR® available in tablets for treating ADHD, narcolepsy, and obesity.
  • Dexmethylphenidate: The brand Focalin XR® available in capsules for treating ADHD.
  • Amphetamine/Dextroamphetamine: The brand Adderall XR® available in oral administration for treating ADHD.
  • Lisdexamfetamine: The brand Vyvanse® administration by tablet for treating ADHD and binge-eating disorder.
  • Methylphenidate: The brands Concerta®, Daytrana®, Jornay PM®, Metadate CD®, Quillivant XR®, Quillichew ER®, and Ritalin LA® tablet administration for treating ADHD and narcolepsy.


Antidepressants such as Zoloft, Prozac, Lexapro, and Paxil are all prescription drugs available for treating mental health conditions. These commonly abused prescription drugs can cause adverse complications when there is misuse or abuse.

Many people taking these prescriptions for negative symptoms of a mental health condition may experience similar symptoms from the abuse. Seeking help through a mental health professional or prescribing physician can initiate detox and a new treatment regimen for the mental health disorder.

Find Hope for Prescription Drugs in Tennessee

The problem of misuse and abuse of prescription drugs is widespread, and those developing a substance use disorder can receive successful treatment. Freeman Recovery Center in Tennessee offers professional detox and further treatment options for prescription drug abuse. Evidence-based therapies are available to learn new coping mechanisms to maintain sobriety.

We offer comprehensive rehabilitation services meticulously tailored to address a wide spectrum of substance use disorders. Our specialized programs cater to individuals battling alcohol addiction, drug addiction, cocaine addiction, heroin addiction, meth addiction, benzo addiction, and prescription drug addiction. By combining evidence-based practices with holistic care, we deliver empathetic and professional support that focuses on the unique needs of each patient. Our goal is to create a nurturing environment where teenagers and their parents feel encouraged and empowered to overcome addiction, achieve lasting recovery, and rebuild their lives with confidence and resilience.

Contact the center today to receive encouraging news on beginning a recovery program.

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