Prescription Drug Abuse

Prescription drugs often straddle the line between helpful and damaging. Many drugs help to cure illnesses and treat symptoms while also causing painful or uncomfortable side effects. One side effect that is common to some prescription medications is addiction. Certain types of medications can be abused by people who are looking to achieve a certain state of mind: a high, relaxation, freedom from anxiety, for instance. Because of how these drugs work in the brain, this abuse can lead to addiction. It is important to understand which medications are addictive and to only take them as directed by a physician. Three main classes of drugs can lead to addiction: depressants, stimulants, and opioid painkillers. You should be alert to signs of prescription drug abuse when someone has been taking any of these medications for a period of time. Speak Confidentially with a Promises Scottsdale Recovery Advisor at 888-478-0036.


Depressants act on the central nervous system to slow it down and to make you feel relaxed, less anxious or sleepy. They are also called sedatives and tranquilizers. Doctors prescribe depressants for anxiety disorders and for sleep disorders. Benzodiazepines are one class of depressants and include Valium and Xanax. These are used for anxiety and panic attacks, but are not used over the long-term because of the potential for addiction.

Barbiturates are another type of depressant. These medications include Mebaral and Nembutal and are used less commonly than benzodiazepines because they carry a greater risk of overdosing. Doctors use them during surgery and for patients with seizure disorders. Sleeping pills that are not benzodiazepines are the final class of depressants. These include Lunesta, Ambien and Sonata. They cause fewer side effects than benzodiazepines and are less addictive.

The depressant drugs produce intoxicating effects that some people like, and which may lead to abuse. These include drowsiness, reduced anxiety, an overall feeling of wellbeing and lowered inhibitions. They can also make you uncoordinated, dizzy and confused. Depressants lower your blood pressure, slow your breathing, and can be very dangerous when combined with alcohol. Speak Confidentially with a Promises Scottsdale Recovery Advisor at 888-478-0036.


 Stimulant medications are the opposite of depressants. They act to stimulate the central nervous system and, because of the potential for abuse, they are prescribed for just a few disorders. These include ADHD, narcolepsy and sometimes depression. Amphetamines are one class of stimulants that include Adderall, Biphetamine and Dexedrine. The other class is called methylphenidates and includes Concerta and Ritalin.

Stimulants are prone to abuse because they make you feel like you have more energy. They make you alert and can help you stay awake and feel exhilarated. Stimulants are commonly abused by people who need to stay up for long hours, like truck drivers. They are also abused by students looking for a study aid to keep them awake and alert.

In addition to the positive effects of stimulants, these medications can increase your heart rate and blood pressure. Abusing them can lead to weight loss, seizures, insomnia, and even heart attack and stroke. Side effects of amphetamines include tremor, irritability, anxiousness, delirium, hallucinations, paranoia, panic attacks and aggressive behaviors. Methylphenidates can cause digestive problems and a loss of appetite. Speak Confidentially with a Promises Scottsdale Recovery Advisor at 888-478-0036.


Among the most addictive of all prescription medications are opioid painkillers. These are medications that are derived from, or found naturally in, the opium poppy. This class of medications includes codeine and morphine, both of which are natural compounds, and any drugs derived from them. Opioids are powerful painkillers, which is why they are often prescribed for people with severe and chronic pain. Some are also prescribed to treat diarrhea and coughing. In addition to morphine and codeine, this class of drugs includes methadone, fentanyl, oxycodone, hydrocodone, oxymorphone, hydromorphone, meperidine and propoxyphene. Some of the brand names are Percocet, Dilaudid, Darvocet, Demerol, and Lorcet.

In addition to relieving pain, opioids produce a high in the user. This euphoric feeling has been achieved for centuries by people abusing opium—a mixture of compounds that comes directly from the opium poppy. Prescription opioids provide the same effect and this pleasant sensation can quickly lead to addiction when abused.

Side effects of opioids include slowed breathing, nausea, dizziness, weakness, dry mouth, itchiness, sweating, constipation, lowered blood pressure, unconsciousness, coma and even death. All opioids have the potential for overdose, but some more so. Fentanyl, which is much stronger than morphine and is often used for terminal cancer patients, and methadone, which is used to treat heroin addicts, are easy to overdose on. Speak Confidentially with a Promises Scottsdale Recovery Advisor at 888-478-0036.

The potential for abuse and addiction is high with all of these drugs. If you are being prescribed any of these, be aware of the risks and the side effects. Always take your medications as prescribed by your doctor, and never abuse them or let anyone else have them. The consequences can be serious.