When individuals consume prescription or over-the-counter medications for non-medical purposes, this can have serious adverse health effects, including things like addiction, dependence, overdose, and even death in the worst-case scenario.

The number of individuals who have become addicted to prescription drugs continues to rise. Annual deaths that are caused by accidental overdose have also increased alarmingly in the past ten years. It’s also important to note that people can become addicted to medication even when it is taken as prescribed by the doctor.

The Most Commonly Abused Drugs

A lot of medications can be potentially abused, however, the most commonly abused drugs include opioids, stimulants, depressants, or dextromethorphan.


Opioids can come from both natural and synthetic compounds, and they are typically prescribed to relieve pain. If taken as prescribed, they can be safely used for managing pain in those with injuries and those recovering from surgery or those who experience chronic pain.

Painkillers such as Vicodin, Percocet, morphine, fentanyl and codeine are some of the most abused prescription drugs in the United States.

Opioids are usually taken orally. Many opioids are a form of oxycodone and are meant to be time-released drugs. However, if the pills are crushed, the powder can be snorted or injected, which causes a rapid release of the drug and a high.

When higher doses of opioids are released into the bloodstream than intended, it can produce a much quicker dependene on the drug. Opioid abuse is very dangerous, and it can lead to overdose or death.

Life-threatening consequences of opioids can be increased when they are also taken with other substances. Opioids should never be taken with alcohol, antihistamines, barbiturates, or benzodiazepines.


Stimulants like Adderall, Dexedrine and Ritalin are typically prescribed to help increase alertness, attention, and energy levels. Stimulants are usually prescribed to treat symptoms of ADHD and sleep disorders and go along with the use of antidepressants.

Physicians typically prescribe stimulants to treat many different medical conditions. However, their use was reduced because of their potential for abuse and addiction. When they are abused, stimulants are typically taken orally. However, some will dissolve the pills in water and attempt to inject them. This can cause vascular problems.

There are a lot of different medical dangers related to stimulant abuse, which are typically related to the cardiovascular system. Some examples are rapid or irregular heartbeat, high blood pressure, and heart damage or failure. There can also be some serious psychiatric reactions that are caused by stimulant abuse.

Over-the-counter medications can also pose a risk when they are mixed with stimulants, especially when mixed with cold medicines containing decongestants. This mix can also cause some dangerously high blood pressure and irregular heartbeat.


Another category of drugs that cause overdose deaths is sedative-hypnotics, particularly barbiturates and benzodiazepines.

Barbiturates like Meberal and Nembutal are a category of medications that are used as anesthetics, anti-seizure medications and previously prescribed to help those with anxiety and sleep.