It’s no secret that medicine can be addictive, and as a result, lead to atypical behavior, say experts like Moorhead law, a criminal defense attorney in Boulder. The landscape for addictive prescription medicines changes over time, however, so read on, as we cover the broad strokes of prescription drug addiction and some of the most addictive substances you’ll find today.
To begin, why do people become addicted to prescription medicines, and why is it a big deal? Just as with illicit substances, prescribed substances can trigger the brain’s reward system causing a high that individuals might start to chase by using larger and larger quantities of the drug in question. In fact, a 2015 study from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration concluded that nearly 19 million Americans over the age of 12 had misused prescription drugs within the past year, while about one percent had a drug use disorder.
So, with that in mind, which prescription drugs do addiction specialists generally agree are the most commonly abused? Here are five:
OxyContin—OxyContin is an opioid, the brand name for a substance known as oxycodone. It’s a pain management medication, and it also produces a euphoric effect in individuals. Unfortunately, it also comes with a range of intensely negative side effects, which can include lethargy, drowsiness, confusion, nausea, vomiting, and more. Opioid addicts are also likely to abuse similar drugs, such as codeine, fentanyl, and meperidine.
Xanax—Also known as alprazolam, this benzodiazepine is used to treat anxiety and panic disorders. By suppressing the central nervous system, it can create a calming effect, but this also leads to individuals abusing the drug as a sedative. Those abusing Xanax may exhibit side effects, like tremors and trouble sleeping, and this drug has also led to many accidental deaths (as some individuals mix it with opioid drugs).
Ambien—You may know Ambien as a common sleeping aid. It’s the brand name of the compound zolpidem, which is part of a class of drugs known as sedative-hypnotics. It works by activating specific neurotransmitters within the brain, which then slow down the central nervous system, but physical dependence to this drug can develop in as few as two weeks. As an individual builds a tolerance to Ambien, they may start escalating their doses to achieve their desired effect, which, over time, can lead to dangerous side effects—especially when it’s mixed with alcohol or other drugs.
Nembutal—You might also hear this one referred to as pentobarbital. It’s a type of barbiturate that functions as a sedative, and as such, is used by many to initiate sleep and treat insomnia. In larger doses, it also functions as an anti-anxiety medication. Like Ambien, however, it can also be abused and, when mixed with other drugs or alcohol, can cause disastrous effects.
Adderall—Also known as amphetamine or dextroamphetamine, is a stimulant that’s used to treat ADHD. Because it produces strong feelings of euphoria and raises dopamine levels, adderall has a high potential for abuse—and not just amongst those with ADHD. Those who are sleep-deprived or trying to hit deadlines will sometimes turn to Adderall to give them the energy boost they need to complete a task, but with mounting side effects as they continue to misuse this medication.