Last updated: November 27, 2023
Over the last few years, there has been a significant rise in prescription drug abuse. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), approximately 52 million people have used prescription drugs for nonmedical purposes at least once in their life. Of the total estimated number of people who’ve reportedly abused prescription drugs, 20% are youths aged 12+. These drugs are addictive as they either promote or suppress chemical reactions in the user’s brain. This list is not exhaustive, but we explain the 7 most prescribed narcotic drugs.
Vicodin is a painkiller that contains acetaminophen and hydrocodone. Hydrocodone works just like morphine to manage either mild or severe pain and is mostly prescribed to patients who have undergone surgery. Due to its opioid properties, it can become very addictive. Acetaminophen is harmful to the liver, and in most cases, people who have overdosed on Vicodin end up in an emergency room. An overdose notwithstanding, prolonged intake of acetaminophen results in liver inflammation and damage. This often results in life-threatening illnesses.
Oxycontin is another painkiller with a very high potential for dependence and abuse. It is used to treat multiple levels of pain and is a lifeline for people suffering from conditions that bring about chronic pain such as cancer, backaches, and severe burns. Intake of Oxycontin results in a euphoric feeling and, therefore, when taken for recreational purposes, there is a higher chance of overdosing. One of the short-term effects of Oxycontin is an irregular heartbeat. This applies to people that are taking it for medical purposes too. Long-term use causes liver and kidney failure. Combination of Oxycontin, acetaminophen, and alcohol results in severe liver damage.
As is the case with other painkillers, continued use of Demerol leads to drug tolerance. The user then needs to take a higher dosage to feel the drug’s effects, which often results in them becoming dependent. Demerol is usually in liquid or tablet form and is seldom approved out of the hospital environment. Overdosing on Demerol can be fatal. It should also not be combined with other drugs or alcohol as this increases the chances of a coma or even death.
This too is a narcotic pain reliever whose main ingredients are oxycodone and acetaminophen. Besides relieving the user of any pain, other short-term effects are euphoria and sleepiness. Acetaminophen is a fever-reducing agent that catalyzes the pain killing effects of oxycodone. Though Acetaminophen has no abuse potential, its prolonged ingestion leads to liver damage. Prolonged use of Percocet leads to damage to the endocrine system. Using it for recreational purposes predisposes one to heart-related problems.
This is a pain-relieving tablet that contains propoxyphene and acetaminophen. It is also used by rehab centers to treat the physical symptoms of drug withdrawal on opiate addicts. Its street names include ‘D’ or ‘Dillies’ and people who abuse it chew, crush and snort the tablet or inject themselves in order to get high. Overdosing on Darvocet can be fatal and lead to death, especially when it is used along with other medications that affect the central nervous system.
Ritalin is a stimulant that has been used to treat narcolepsy, depression, fatigue syndrome as well as reduce ADD and ADHD symptoms. Abusers ingest it either in tablet form or ground it in order to snort or inject into their bodies. Crashing it makes it get absorbed in the body quickly, so its effects are felt almost immediately. Myocardial infarctions have been reported to be as a result of Ritalin overdose. Other effects caused by prolonged use of this drug include; seizures, delusions and hallucinations, disorientation, among others.
Just like Ritalin, Amphetamines stimulate the user and are mostly used in the treatment of narcolepsy and ADHD. Long-term use of Amphetamines results in the user becoming overly aggressive or paranoid. Hallucinations and other psychotic behaviors are also common in most abusers. Using Amphetamines predisposes one to convulsions, heart-related risks, and heart failure.
The abuse of prescription drugs is an epidemic whose impacts on the individuals and society can be catastrophic. As such, all measures should be formulated to regulate drugs prescription, enhance drug testing and even pull of the market those whose adverse effects outweigh the benefits.