Commonly abused prescription drugs are drugs developed for medical use, but with a high addictive potential. These drugs are only available on a prescription basis, and ideally should only be made available by doctors to patients whose diagnosis demands a certain dosage of said drugs as treatment for their condition.
Sadly, commonly abused prescription drugs can make their way into the hands of friends or relatives, and in some cases, they are available on the black market.
What Are Prescription Drugs
Unlike over-the-counter medication, prescription drugs are addictive – but they are also more effective. Sedatives like Lunestra work far better than most over-the-counter sleeping aids, while OxyContin, Demerol and other opiates are far more effective at combating pain than a paracetamol.
While they’re legal under the right precautions, commonly abused prescription drugs are just as dangerous as illicit drugs. Prescription drugs are not to be experimented with, or used for recreation. They’re not meant to act as stress relief or as weight-loss pills – and misusing commonly abused prescription drugs is illegal.
They are still medically important, and very helpful for millions of Americans dealing with pain from cancer treatment, severe insomnia, mental disorders such as ADHD and anxiety, and more.
Why Prescription Drugs Are So Dangerous
The crux behind why commonly abused prescription drugs are only available through prescription is because they can easily lead to health problems. Aside from the dangers of addiction, misuse of prescription drugs also leads to extremely adverse and at times fatal side effects. From nausea to panic attacks, seizures and heart failure, an overdose on commonly abused prescription drugs can very easily ruin your life.
Despite these dangers, the medical benefits of commonly abused prescription drugs outweigh their dangers enough to risk the potential of misuse in certain cases, simply due to how helpful they are. Therefore, there is a large push to find safer alternatives, to take drugs like amphetamine and codeine off the market. Until these alternatives become found and commercially viable, however, commonly abused prescription drugs will continue to be a reality in modern-day health care.
The Most Commonly Abused Prescription Drugs
Prescription drugs with a common history of misuse include:
- Among Opioids: Common opioids used recreationally include codeine, morphine, methadone, fentanyl (Actiq, Duragesic), and other opioid-based pain relievers (OxyContin, Percocet, Vicodin, Percodan, Demerol, Darvocet, etc.).
- Among Stimulants: Common stimulants used recreationally include amphetamines (Adderall, Biphetamine, Dexedrine) and methylphenidate (Ritalin, Concerta).
- Among Depressants: Common depressants used recreationally include sleep medication (Ambien, Sonata, Lunesta), benzodiazepines (Ativan, Halcion, Xanax, Valium, and barbiturates (Amytal, Seconal, Penobarbital).
This is just a general overview of some of the most commonly abused prescription drugs. Any depressant/sedative, stimulant, or opioid/pain reliever can be used recreationally.
Many Drugs Have Medical (And Other) Uses
Prescription drugs such as opioids and amphetamines aside, many other recreational drugs have medical uses (or other uses). Medical cannabis, wherever legal, can be used to treat seizures, muscle spasms, pain, and nausea. Sedatives act as both a way to combat chronic pain and are a mainstay in antianxiety medication. Anabolic steroids are often used not just to get an athletic advantage in sports, but as a vital tool in the treatment of male hormone problems, muscle loss from certain diseases, or as part of a female-to-male sex conversion.
Many recreational (and exceptionally harmful) inhalants are typically used as industrial glue and paint thinners, and there are plenty of toiletries and medicines abused as alcohol alternatives (mouthwash and even bath soap are common examples that have led to overdose for their high alcohol content). Even cocaine has medical uses, as topical anesthesia.
Drugs are not inherently negative – but their potential for misuse makes them dangerous. Commonly abused prescription drugs are not a bane to society or the root cause of today’s opioid crisis. Neither can it be blamed as the primary cause behind the current rise in opioid abuse. Instead, it’s important to look at the human factors behind the substances.
Excessive prescription of opioids in the 80s and 90s led to a lax overuse of addictive painkillers, and subsequent regulation without proper medical attention led to thousands of people jumping ship from a legitimate prescription to illegal heroin, both domestic and imported. Today, such drugs are cut and mixed with dangerous additives like fentanyl, sending overdose rates through the roof. Yet despite these dangers, opioids like morphine will continue to be extremely important in emergency situations, to eliminate pain.
Much the same way, most drugs have their uses and dangers. Cocaine is a product of the coca leaf, which was used as a cultural psychotropic for centuries before the discovery of its isolated alkaloid. Traditionally, coca leaves are chewed with ash – the ash reacts with the leaf, drawing out cocaine in miniscule amounts, leaving the user’s mouth slightly number while creating a moderately stimulating effect.
Knowing what a drug is, how it works and why it is dangerous (and in what form) is vital to creating a better understanding of addiction in the public. Vilification and stigma don’t have much use in the fight against drugs – instead, we need education and health care to fight on the front lines as well as recovery and sober living programs to help those addicted to these substances.