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Different Types of Prescription Drug Abuse

Press Release

When many people think of the term “substance abuse,” illegal drugs such as cocaine, heroin, and marijuana often come to mind. However, many different prescription drugs also have the potential for abuse and addiction, even if they were appropriately prescribed. Quite often, a patient will use a prescription medication as directed initially, and then begin to take too much of the drug or take it for a longer period than appropriate. Physical dependence and addiction can be the result. The three most commonly abused prescription drugs in the U.S. are opioids, depressants, and stimulants.


When over-the-counter pain relievers are insufficient, a doctor may prescribe an opioid. These include oxycodone, codeine, fentanyl, and a combination of hydrocodone and acetaminophen. These potent drugs have a high potential for abuse and addiction. When taken improperly, they can cause adverse side effects, including suppressed breathing, low blood pressure, low heart rate, dizziness, unconsciousness, and coma. According to PBS, out of the seven million Americans who have a substance abuse problem with prescription drugs, more than five million abuse opioids.


Central nervous system (CNS) depressants are commonly prescribed to treat anxiety disorders and insomnia. These include barbiturates, sleep medications, and benzodiazepines, such as Xanax, Valium, and Klonopin. A person who is intoxicated with these types of drugs will display dizziness, impaired concentration, and sedation. They can also cause addiction, respiratory distress, lowered blood pressure, and slowed breathing, and they may be fatal if combined with alcohol.


Stimulants may be prescribed for anxiety and mood disorders, and for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). These drugs include Ritalin, Adderall, and amphetamines. When these substances are abused, the negative health consequences can include seizures, heart attack, and stroke. Amphetamines can also lead to panic, aggression, delirium, and hallucinations.

At Aurora Las Encinas Hospital in Pasadena, we provide comprehensive substance abuse treatment options. Our program takes a family-oriented approach to provide each patient with the proper support he or she needs to succeed. Please contact one of our substance abuse specialists at (888) 348-2165 or visit our website for our current meeting schedule.