Prescription drug misuse occurs when someone uses a medication that was prescribed for someone else, or when someone uses their own medication in a way not intended by their doctor. Prescription drug misuse can affect all age groups. Regardless of age, there are many reasons someone might misuse prescription medications, such wanting to “fit in,” feel good or get high, relieve depression and anxiety, help them cope with life’s stresses, sleep better or increase their alertness and concentration power, or even becoming addicted to medication originally prescribed for pain. Whatever the reason, people often believe that prescription medications provide a legal and “medically safe high,” since they are prescribed by a doctor.
The three most commonly misused classes of medications are opioids, central nervous system depressants, and stimulants. See the chart below for specific medication names, their effects, and their street names.
|Most Commonly Misused Medications
|Example Physical Health Effects
|Example Street Names*
|Opioids – used primarily to treat pain; can be found in some cough medicines
Opioids pain relievers appeal to people because they can produce quick, intense feeling of pleasure followed by a sense of well-being and a calm drowsiness
Note: Many people who abuse prescription opioids move on to heroin, which has similar health effects when abused.
|Central nervous system depressants (also known as tranquilizers and sedatives) – used primarily to treat anxiety and sleep disorders
Depressants appeal to people because they cause euphoria or relaxation and sleep
Some sleep medications are sometimes used as date rape drugs.
|Stimulants – used primarily to treat ADHD and narcolepsy
Stimulants appeal to people because they help them lose weight, increase their alertness, attention and energy, create feelings of extreme joy, give them energy to stay awake, increases their concentration, or make them become more talkative
Stimulants abused in high doses can result in dangerously high body temperature and irregular heartbeat, heart failure and/or seizures.
When mixed with alcohol, risk of alcohol overdose increases and abuser may experience increased blood pressure and jitters.