Prescription and Illicit Drug Abuse

Frequently Asked Questions

9. Which types of prescription medications do older adults abuse the most?

The prescription medications most commonly abused by people of any age are opioids (painkillers), depressants, and stimulants.

Doctors prescribe opioids to relieve pain and, sometimes, to treat severe coughs and diarrhea. Common opioid prescription medications include the following:

For more on opioids, see “What Are the Possible Consequences of Opioid Use and Abuse?"

Depressants are used to treat anxiety and sleep disorders. The types of depressants that are most commonly abused are barbiturates (Secobarbital® ,Mebaral® and Nembutal®) and benzodiazepines (Valium®, Librium®, and Xanax®).

For more on depressants, see “What Are the Possible Consequences of CNS Depressant Use and Abuse?"

Stimulants are used to treat narcolepsy (a sleep disorder), attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and depression that has not responded to other treatments. These medications increase alertness, attention, and energy. Stimulants include methylphenidate (Ritalin® and Concerta®), and amphetamines (Adderall®).

For more on stimulants, see “What Are the Possible Consequences of Stimulant Use and Abuse?"