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Prescription Drug Abuse

Prescription drug abuse involves using mind and mood-altering drugs in a way other than prescribed. If a medicine is prescribed, but if a patient takes more than the amount indicated on the bottle or someone else’s prescription or buys pills off the street, this is drug abuse. This type of addiction is much more common than most people realize.

The United States uses more controlled prescription drugs than any country. We consume about 80% of the world’s prescription opioid painkillers yearly. 4.25% of the world’s population uses 80% of the world’s oxycodone, hydrocodone, morphine, fentanyl, Dilaudid, and more. Learn more about:



How Does Prescription Addiction Happen?

Prescription drug abuse can happen in several ways. One of the most common occurs when someone has been prescribed an opioid analgesic for chronic pain, an injury, or following surgery. Doctors are a lot savvier about the risk of prescription drug abuse now than in the past, but it’s still an issue. Through no fault of the patient, they can become dependent on an opioid medication after as little as a week of taking it. It depends on the person, but no one is immune to physical dependence on opioids.

Whether it’s five days or ten, taking opioids regularly will create dependence. Abruptly stopping medication will often create physical (and likely psychological) withdrawal symptoms. With opioids, these symptoms usually manifest as yawning and watery eyes at first. In time, flu-like symptoms, including nausea, diarrhea, stomach cramps, and chills, occur. People with opioid withdrawal also often experience anxiety and fatigue. These physical symptoms can last five to eight days, but less intense side effects like anxietydepression, or insomnia may linger for weeks afterward. This depends largely on the individual, the drug of abuse, the length of abuse, and the quantity.

While no one is immune from addiction, some people are at higher risk of prescription drug abuse than others. Here are some risk factors to consider.

Some Risk Factors for Abusing Prescription Drugs Include:

  • History of depression or anxiety
  • Prior history of addiction (with any substance)
  • Family history of addiction
  • Youth, lower emotional maturity
  • Tendency towards risk-taking behaviors
  • Heavy tobacco use (nicotine addiction)
  • Trauma or stressful circumstances

Which Prescription Medicines are Most Often Abused?

There’s a long list. Essentially any controlled substance has the potential for prescription drug abuse. Most doctors do a good job of informing the patient of the risks before prescribing these medications, but not all do. Even when the risk of addiction is explained, it’s not unusual for people to underestimate the danger or imagine they won’t have a problem. Some people are overconfident because they haven’t had a problem with alcohol or drugs before.


  • Oxycodone (Percocet, OxyContin, Percodan, Tylox)
  • Hydrocodone (Vicodin, Lortab, Xodol, Zohydro)
  • Morphine (MSContin, Kadian, Avinza)
  • Oxymorphone (Opana)
  • Hydromorphone (Dilaudid)
  • Fentanyl (Actiq, Duragesic, Sublimaze)
  • Codeine (Tylenol 3, Antituss AC)
  • Methadone


  • Alprazolam (Xanax, Niravam)
  • Clonazepam (Klonopin)
  • Lorazepam (Ativan, Loreev XR)
  • Diazepam (Valium)
  • Chlordiazepoxide (Librium)
  • Midazolam (Versed)
  • Triazolam (Halcion)
  • Oxazepam (Serax)


  • Amphetamine/dextroamphetamine (Adderall)
  • Methylphenidate (Ritalin, Concerta)
  • Dexmethylphenidate hydrochloride (Focalin)
  • Lisdexamfetamine dimesylate (Vyvanse)
  • Dextroamphetamine (Dexedrine)
  • Methamphetamine (Desoxyn)

An Important Note About Benzodiazepines

Benzodiazepines are one of only three drug categories with potentially fatal withdrawal symptoms. The others are alcohol and barbiturates. It is absolutely essential that you NEVER attempt to detox yourself off of benzodiazepines or stop taking them abruptly without medical supervision. There is a very real potential for withdrawal seizures, which can be deadly. A benzodiazepine detox or taper must always be done under a doctor’s supervision.

We Can Help

If you believe you or someone you love needs help with prescription drug abuse, or you just have questions about treatment for addiction, contact us.


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