Prescription and Illicit Drug Abuse

Commonly Abused Medications

The types of prescription medications most commonly abused by people of any age are

Opioids (Painkillers)

Doctors prescribe opioids mainly to relieve pain. Short-term, medical use of opioids is safe and rarely causes addiction. However, long-term use of opioids, or use in a way other than prescribed, can lead to physical dependence or addiction.

Common opioid prescription medications include


Depressants are used to treat anxiety and sleep disorders. Depressants slow normal brain function, and decrease blood pressure, heart rate, and breathing. They can cause confusion, drowsiness, fatigue, and impaired coordination. Long-term abuse can lead to addiction.

Here are commonly prescribed depressants.


Stimulants are used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), narcolepsy (a sleep disorder), and depression that has not responded to other treatments. These medications increase alertness, attention, and energy. They include methylphenidate (Ritalin® and Concerta®), and amphetamines (Adderall®). Stimulants increase blood pressure and heart rate, constrict blood vessels, and produce a sense of euphoria in some people.