Prescription Drugs

Most people take prescription medications responsibly and when done so they can be highly beneficial treatments.  However, when misused or abused prescription drugs can be as dangerous as illegal drugs. Misuse is defined as taking prescription drugs...

  • Treat a medical condition, but not as directed by a medical provider
  • For an unintended use
  • Just to get high
  • Not prescribed to you
  • With a contra indicated drug-which can amplify the effect

Most Commonly Used Prescription Drugs

Central Nervous System Depressants

These are sedatives and tranquilizers that slow normal brain function. They include barbiturates (Amytal, Nembutal, Seconal, Phenobarbital) and benzodiazepines (Ativan, Halcion, Librium, Valium, Xanax). They are most often taken orally, and are sometimes taken in combination with other drugs.  They slow the central nervous system and may be prescribed by a physician to induce sleep, reduce stress, or help control anxiety. 


The user may experience some relaxation, calmness, drowsiness and even euphoria.  In high levels the user may experience confusion, dizziness, nausea/vomiting, headache, disorientation and impaired motor coordination, including slurred speech and loss of balance. If combined with certain other drugs they can slow heart rate and respiration which can be fatal. 


Overdose may produce shallow breathing, clammy skin, weak and rapid pulse, seizures, coma and possible death.  Risk of overdose is increased when the person combines depressant drugs like alcohol or others depressant drugs, either intentionally or by accident. Long term use can lead to addiction.


These are analgesics, also known as pain relievers or narcotics. They include OxyContin, oxycodone HCL, Percodan, Demerol, Lortab, Darvon, Vicodin, Fentanyl, heroin, morphine, opium and codeine. They often come in pill form. They can be abuse by being taken orally or they can be crushed and then snorted or injected. Injecting or snorting can more easily lead to an overdose as some opioids are time-released and injecting and snorting the drug delivers it directly to the blood stream resulting in very high doses.


The user may experience pain relief along with euphoria, drowsiness, constipation, nausea, and depressed breathing.  Someone under the influence may have constricted pupils, watery eyes and a “dazed” look.


Long term use can lead to physical dependence and addiction.  There is also a risk of overdose with narcotics. Users may develop slow, shallow breathing, clammy skin, loss of appetite, confusion and unconsciousness.   Overdose can lead to possible coma and death without intervention.  Narcotics are highly addictive and may require inpatient treatment to safely detoxify the body.


These are drugs that increase alertness, attention, and energy.  They include dextroamphetamine (Dexedrine), methylphenidate (Ritalin and Concerta), and amphetamines (Adderall).  They also include nicotine and caffeine.  Stimulants speed up the mental and physical processes of the body.  They are often prescribed by physicians to treat Attention Deficit/ Hyperactivity Disorders, a sleep disorder called narcolepsy and obesity.  They have also been abused for “performance enhancement” as well as to get high. They can be abused by being taken orally or the tablets can be crushed and sorted or mixed with water and injected. These drugs can be addictive and can produce withdrawal if stopped.


In general, stimulant users experience an increased heart rate, blood pressure, and energy. Heightened alertness and attention levels are reported in the treatment of ADHD. Decrease in appetite along with excessive talkativeness can also be experienced.


Heavy use of stimulants may lead to malnutrition, skin disorders, ulcers and vitamin deficiencies. Heart problems such as rapid or irregular heartbeat, permanent cardiac damage, stroke and or heart failure can also occur. Difficulty sleeping, increased anxieties such as panic or paranoia, hallucinations and psychotic behavior are also associated with heavy use. Irritability, hostility, and violent behavior can also occur.

Additional information on prescription drugs

Steroids (anabolic)

Anabolic steroids are synthetic substances similar to the male sex hormone testosterone.  They are generally taken orally or injected.  These steroids are often abused to build muscle or enhance performance. Although a medical provider may sometimes prescribe these steroids to a man who does not produce enough testosterone on his own, it would never be prescribed to a young healthy person wishing to build muscles.


Steroids can cause liver damage, water retention, and high blood pressure.  There are also specific side effects for both males and females. Side effects for men include shrinking testicles, baldness, breast development, and infertility, whereas females risk growth of facial hair, male-patterned baldness, menstrual changes, and deepened voice. 


Abuse by adolescents can prematurely end their growth spurt, causing them to remain shorter than they would have been for the rest of their lives. There is also a potential for fatal liver cysts and liver cancer; blood clotting, cholesterol changes, and hypertension, each of which can promote heart attack and stroke.  It has also been suggested that abuse of steroids, particularly in high doses can increase aggression.  

Additional information on steroids

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