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Prescription Drugs

Most people who take prescription medications take them responsibly; however, the nonmedical use or abuse of prescription drugs remains a serious public health concern. Certain prescription drugs - opioids, central nervous system (CNS) depressants, and stimulants - when abused, can alter the brain's activity and lead to dependence and possibly addiction.

Millions of Americans are addicted to prescription drugs. Many of these addicts are average citizens, with no prior history of drug abuse, who became “hooked” after first using the drugs for legitimate medical reasons. Now, having escalated their drug usage, they cannot stop. The destructive course of addiction rips at the thread of family fabric.

Chances are you, or someone you know, is struggling with addiction to prescription drugs. Maybe it’s your spouse, a relative, a friend, or a casual acquaintance. Maybe it’s you. Maybe you’re not even sure if the drug use has shifted from therapeutic to abusive.

Prescription drug abuse may be defined as a pattern of compulsive drug use characterized by a continued craving for drugs and the need to use these drugs for psychological effects or mood alterations. Many prescription drug abusers find that they need to use drugs to feel “normal.” The user exhibits drug seeking behavior and is often preoccupied with using and obtaining the drugs of choice. These substances may be obtained through legal or illegal channels.

Although many prescription drugs can be abused or misused, there are three classes of prescription drugs that are most commonly abused:

  • Opioids, which are most often prescribed to treat pain;
  • CNS depressants, which are used to treat anxiety and sleep disorders;
  • Stimulants, which are prescribed to treat the sleep disorder narcolepsy, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and obesity.

According to the Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN), fourteen of the top twenty most abused controlled substances in the United States, are prescription drugs. Benzodiazepines rank highest on the list, and are followed by the opiates or painkillers.

Top 20 Most Abused Drugs

  1. Cocaine
  2. Marijuana
  3. Heroin
  4. Unspecified benzodiazepine
  5. Alprazolam (Xanax)
  6. Clonazepam (Klonopin)
  7. Hydrocodone (Vicodin, Lorcet, Lortab)
  8. Amphetamine
  9. Diazepam (Valium)
  10. Lorazeparn (Ativan)
  11. Metharnphetamine (speed)
  12. Trazodone (Desyrel)
  13. Fluoxetine (Prozac)
  14. Carisoprodol
  15. Oxycodone (Percocet 5, Perdocan, Tylox)
  16. Valproic acid
  17. d-Propoxyphene (Darvocet N, Darvon)
  18. Amitriptyline (Elavil)
  19. Methadone
  20. LSD

Drug Abuse Warning Network Emergency Room Data, 1999, Table 2.06A.

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