What Prescription Drugs Were Abused the Most in 2013
A 2013 ACS Chemical Neuroscience study stated that US prescriptions totaled 4 billion pills and $326 billion in sales during the prior year, and similar numbers were expected for 2013. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) provides a list (revised in 2011) of the most commonly abused prescription drugs, which include the following:
- Depressant medications like benzodiazepines, barbiturates, and sleep medications
- Opioid painkillers such as morphine, methadone, codeine, oxycodone, and hydrocodone
- A compound in some cough and cold medicines called dextromethorphan
- Stimulants such as amphetamines and methylphenidate
Today, the abuse of prescription medication rivals that of illicit drugs. The Office of National Drug Control Policy website notes that one-third of 2009 drug initiates started with recreational prescription drug use and that drug-induced fatalities are second only to motor vehicles in accidental deaths.
Drug Abuse Statistics
Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News published the Top 17 abused prescription drugs of 2013, which included the following:
- The opioid painkiller OxyContin topped the list of most abused prescription drugs
- Other opioid painkillers on the list included Vicodin, Percocet, Fentora, and Opana ER
- Suboxone, an opioid drug used in addiction treatment, placed second despite having its tablet form discontinued in 2013 due to accidental pediatric deaths
- The stimulant drugs Concerta, Ritalin, and Adderall took the No. 3, 5, and 8 spots, respectively
- Ambien ranked No. 4 on the list that also included depressant drugs like Valium, Ativan, Lunesta, Klonopin, and Xanax
In 2013, the PBS News website noted that 7 million Americans abuse prescription drugs. Within that group, 1.1 million abuse stimulants, 2.6 million abuse depressants, and 5.1 million abuse opioid painkillers.
In terms of sheer volume, Drugs.com ranked hydrocodone second among all pharmaceuticals in 2013 with nearly 29 million units sold (second only to the asthma medication budesonide), down from the top spot the year prior. The 2012 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) highlights the painkiller problem in its findings, which included the following:
- Opioids are currently the most commonly abused prescription drug
- Marijuana is the only drug with more illicit users than painkillers
- 2.1 million people struggled with painkiller abuse in 2012
- The abuse rate is up from 1.8 million in 2011 and 1.4 million in 2004
- Nearly a million people sought opioid addiction treatment in 2012
In late 2013, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) cited a study confirming that oxycodone- and hydrocodone-based painkillers are the most popular prescription drugs of abuse. Oxycodone, the active ingredient in OxyContin, was the preferred drug of choice for 45% of illicit users.
Common prescription depressants include the sleep medications Lunesta and Ambien and anti-anxiety benzodiazepine-class drugs like Klonopin, Ativan, Xanax, and Valium. As the second-most abused class of medications, depressants are associated with several risks, including the following:
- Depressants interact with opioids, alcohol, and other substances to increase the risk of central nervous system depressions
- Side effects can include mood swings, emotional outbursts, disorientation, tremors, and respiratory decline, per the Center for Substance Abuse Research
- Abruptly reducing dosage can result in extended withdrawal symptoms and potentially fatal seizures
According to the Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN) report, nonmedical use of prescription depressants was associated with 34% of all drug-related emergency room visits in 2011. Alprazolam (brand name: Xanax) and clonazepam (brand name: Klonopin) combined for nearly half of the medical emergencies.
Prescription stimulants like Adderall and Ritalin are designed to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), but they are often used illicitly to increase energy, mental alertness, and exhilarating sensations. Stimulant abuse has many risks, including the following:
- Potential health effects include increases in heart rate, blood pressure, and insomnia
- Mood-related effects can include panic, irritability, paranoia, and nervousness
- Stimulant abuse increases the risk of heart attack, stroke, seizures, and digestive problems
- Stimulants were associated with more than 40,000 emergency room visits in 2011, per the DAWN Report
The Experimental and Clinical Psychopharmacology journal in 2001 and Slate magazine in 2003 both noted similarities between Ritalin and cocaine, while a 2012 North Georgia College & State University study showed cross-sensitization between Adderall and crystal methamphetamine. All of these drugs share a Schedule II classification among controlled substances.
Drug Addiction Rehabilitation
Prescription drug abuse is a serious health risk, but professional treatment can help addicts recover with several potential therapies, including the following:
- Supervised detoxification with tapered dosage reductions for certain medications
- Integrated screenings and treatments for co-occurring mental health disorders
- Behavioral therapies that target unhealthy thought patterns and beliefs related to conduct
- Relapse-prevention strategies to identify and neutralize drug craving triggers
- Holistic options to address physical and mental health issues that motivated the initial use
Therapies take place in both one-on-one and group settings, and treatment centers help recovering addicts engage aftercare support groups in their area.
Please do not take the risk of letting untreated addiction become worse. Call our toll-free helpline 24 hours a day, and discuss the addiction problem with one of our admissions coordinators. We can discuss warning signs, explain treatment options, recommend facilities, and answer any questions. If you have health insurance, we can also look up your policy and explain its benefits. If you need help, please call now.