Addiction Helpline and Resource Center

Prescription Drug Abuse

Prescription drugs can fall into one of three categories: narcotic painkillers, sedatives and tranquilizers or stimulants. Because of the accessibility of these drugs, the abuse of them is steadily increasing. Doctors are prescribing more drugs for more health problems than ever before. An estimated 20 percent of people in the United States use them without a prescription. Online pharmacies are also adding to the accessibility, allowing the opportunity for users to take multiple drugs at one time for different ailments or for the effect of the high. Either way, prescription drug abuse is causing deaths and the death rate is steadily increasing.

Misperceptions about Prescription Drug Abuse

Misuse of prescription drugs account for three-fourths of the issues surrounding the problem. Teenagers are more likely to abuse prescription drugs due to the inexpensive means of obtaining them as well as altering their mental and physical state. The temptations to have more fun, lose weight and fit in are also reasons to experiment. There is a misperception that using prescription drugs is safer than other narcotics but in reality, these particular drugs are only safe for the people to whom obtain the prescription. There are serious health risks associated when using them for the wrong reasons.

Narcotic Painkillers

Narcotic painkiller or opioid abuse can lead to vomiting, mood changes, decrease in ability to think (cognitive function), and even decreased respiratory function, coma or death. This risk is higher when prescription drugs like opioids are taken with other substances like alcohol, antihistamines and CNS depressants.

Sedatives and Tranquilizers

Prescription drug abuse

Prescription drug abuse

Sedatives and tranquilizers, or central nervous system depressants, have risks also. Taking CNS depressants with other medications, such as prescription painkillers, some over-the-counter cold and allergy medications or alcohol can slow a person’s heartbeat and breathing. There is a chance of death when this occurs. Abruptly stopping or reducing them too quickly can lead to seizures.


Prescription drug abuse of stimulants (like some ADHD drugs) has caused heart failure or seizures. These risks are increased when stimulants are mixed with other medicines — even certain cold medicines. Taking too much of a stimulant can lead a person to develop a dangerously high body temperature or an irregular heartbeat. Taking several high doses over a short period of time may make a drug abuser aggressive or paranoid.

Prescription Drug Addiction Treatment

If you or a loved one is addicted to prescription drugs, it is important to seek help. Prescription drugs are a highly dependent and addictive. Once addicted, the effects are devastating. But, there is hope. If you are interested in receiving information on prescription drug detox or rehab, please call our toll free number at (888) 371-5714.

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