Which Prescription Drugs Are Most Often Abused?

Much like illicit substances, misuse of prescription medications can also land you in legal trouble. Unless you are a prescribed a medication by a licensed medical professional, you are not permitted to use or possess it. You are also not permitted to sell or distribute your own prescription medication to others.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, certain prescription medications are more prone to abuse. The following are three of the most commonly abused prescription medications and their effects.

CNS depressants

Medications such as sedatives and tranquilizers fall into the category of central nervous system (CNS) depressants. These medications may be prescribed for those experiencing anxiety disorders, or those with chronic insomnia. They work by slowing down brain activity, and over time a person will require increased doses to experience the same effects. Barbiturates are a type of CNS depressant that can have life-threatening withdrawal effects, which makes their misuse even more dangerous.


Opioids have many medical applications as painkillers, which makes them beneficial after surgeries or injuries, or for those experiencing chronic pain conditions. The same effects that reduce pain signals going to the brain also cause euphoric feelings, which makes opioids highly addictive. Along with their high risk of addiction, they also carry a high overdose risk, especially for those with a low tolerance.


Stimulant medications can be used to treat medical conditions like ADHD and depression. They are known to enhance alertness and focus, as well as increase heart rate. Their impact on dopamine production, which is the brain’s feel-good chemical, can also cause euphoric feelings when overused. These feelings lead to dependency with repeated use. Regular stimulant use for non-medical purposes also puts you at risk of heat problems, including irregular heartbeat and heart failure.

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