What Are the Most Commonly Abused Prescription Drugs?

The National Center for Drug Abuse Statistics (NCDAS) estimates that more than 16 million American abuse prescriptions every year. A significant chunk of that prescription drug abuse (82 percent) is linked to opioids, but other common prescription drugs are abused as well. While everyone is impacted by prescription drug abuse, teens and older adults are more likely to become addicted to prescription drugs.

What Are Prescription Drugs?

A prescription drug is any medication that requires a prescription from a doctor, dentist, or other licensed medical professional. Prescription drugs are regulated by legislation. They are often more powerful than over the counter (OTC) drug options.

Just because they are prescribed doesn’t mean that they are safe. You should only use prescription drugs in the dosage and frequency that’s been prescribed to avoid some of the more serious side effects. Using prescription drugs only as your doctor recommends will also help to mitigate and prevent the chances of developing an addiction.

Here are a few of the commonly abused prescription drugs.

Prescription morphine

Morphine is an analgesic. It is a synthetic narcotic prescribed under the brand names Astramorph, Avinza, DepoDur, Duramorph, and Kadian. Approximately 2.5 million Americans abuse prescription painkillers like morphine to achieve a sense of euphoria.

Benzodiazepines (Valium, Xanax)

4.8 million Americans use Benzodiazepines every year. Xanax®, also known as “xans” or “xannies”, is a well-known brand name for Benzodiazepines. It’s prescribed by doctors to treat panic disorders and anxiety. 


Codeine is a highly addictive Schedule II drug manufactured from morphine via a semi-synthetic process.. Like morphine, it’s a natural opioid. It is one of the most common prescription drugs, prescribed as a cough suppressant. Codeine is widely abused because it is also available in over-the-counter forms in some areas. 

Oxycodone (OxyContin, Percocet)

Oxycodone or “oxy” is one of the most well-known opioid prescription drug examples. It’s a powerful and highly addictive painkiller, sold under the brand names, OxyContin® or Percocet®.

Hydrocodone (Vicodin)

Hydrocodone is another example of an opioid drug, which is in the deadliest class of prescription drugs. Prescription drug abuse is also prevalent with Vicodin ®, which pairs Hydrocodone with acetaminophen (Tylenol®).

Stimulants (Adderall, Ritalin)

About 4.9 million Americans are affected by prescription drug addiction involving stimulants. Ritalin is one of the most well-known brand names for methylphenidate. Adderall® has a usage rate of nearly 76 percent. It’s prescribed for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) but may be misused for better  focus and academic performance or boosting alertness.

Next Step: Start on Your Path to Recovery at Hope Canyon

If you’re one of the 16 million Americans who is affected by prescription drug addiction, a California treatment center can help you take the first steps toward recovery. Prescription drug overdose is often the wake-up that may be inspiring you to reach out for support and treatment.

Our trained behavioral health clinicians and support staff offer comprehensive treatment options with the level of care, dedication, and support you need. We offer evidence-based therapies as well as holistic care to help you recover at our drug and alcohol rehab in San Diego, California.

Call 855-683-5489 to get started on your journey to recovery.

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