abused prescription drugs

Most Abused Prescription Drugs | Vicodin, Codeine, & Adderall

Medications prescribed by a physician are intended to treat a specific condition or illness. When that prescription is abused, it can cause great harm including severe side effects. The most abused prescriptions drugs are Vicodin, codeine, and Adderall, medications that are designed to treat pain and anxiety.

Risk Factors for Abusing Prescriptions

Abusing a prescription drug could involve taking someone else’s medication or snorting or injecting ground-up pills in an attempt to get a high from the drug. Often, drug abuse is ongoing and compulsive, even though the consequences can be life-threatening. Prescription drug abuse happens across all age groups. Risk factors can include:

  • Having easy access to prescription drugs, including those medications belonging to family members that are kept in the medicine cabinet
  • Exposure to drug use by others, in a social environment
  • A family history of substance use disorders
  • Pre-existing psychiatric conditions
  • Being addicted to other substances, such as alcohol and tobacco
  • Not understanding the potential harm of misused and abused prescription drugs.

A survey conducted in 2015 found that 18.9 million Americans over the age of 12 had misused prescription drugs in the past year. On average, 40 people die every day from overdosing on narcotic prescription drugs.

Most Abused Prescription Drugs

The types of prescription drugs that are most often abused include opioids prescribed for pain relief, depressants such as benzodiazepines prescribed for anxiety, and stimulants prescribed for attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

Opioids are commonly prescribed to treat pain. Prescription opioids include codeine, hydrocodone (Vicodin), morphine, oxycodone, and fentanyl. Opioids work in the brain to diminish the perception of pain. They can also produce a sense of euphoria as they work on the brain’s pleasure centers. An intensified feeling can usually be produced when pills are crushed and snorted.

Depressants are typically prescribed to treat anxiety and sleep disorders. These medications slow the normal functioning of the brain and include barbiturates, pentobarbital sodium, and benzodiazepines such as Valium and Xanax.

Stimulants are prescribed to treat ADHD, attention deficit disorder (ADD), and narcolepsy. Prescription stimulants such as dextroamphetamine (Adderall) and methylphenidate (Ritalin) increase the amount of certain chemicals in the brain and in the peripheral nervous system.


The prescription drug hydrocodone is often combined with acetaminophen, in a pain relief medication known by the brand name Vicodin. The drug works by changing the perception of pain as well as the emotional response to it. While minimizing the reaction to pain, hydrocodone can also produce feelings of lightheadedness and euphoria in some people, which can lead to misuse, abuse, and addiction. When someone abuses Vicodin, they can become anxious and confused, suffer seizures, and experience a slowed heartbeat. Serious misuse and abuse of Vicodin can result in a coma or death.


Used to relieve pain and to reduce coughing, when prescribed in combination with other medications, codeine is an opiate analgesic. Although prescription codeine treats the symptoms, it does not treat the cause of the pain or cough and will not speed recovery. Codeine changes the way the brain and nervous system respond to pain. It is effective in reducing coughing by decreasing the activity in the part of the brain that causes coughing. Codeine can be addictive.


Combining two stimulants that affect the body’s impulse control and hyperactivity, Adderall contains amphetamine and dextroamphetamine. It has been approved to treat ADHD and narcolepsy; however, some healthcare providers also prescribe it for the treatment of anxiety, bipolar depression, and to help their patients lose weight. Amphetamines are highly addictive and side effects could include stomachache, decreased appetite, and nervousness.

As a stimulant, Adderall is one of the most abused prescription drugs, most often misused by students or working professionals who want to improve their focus, to get more work done, or even to get high when combining the drug with alcohol. Misuse and abuse of Adderall can lead to serious cardiovascular events or sudden death.

Contact Recovery Without Walls for Prescription Drug Help

At Recovery Without Walls, we understand that it can be difficult and even dangerous to stop abusing prescription drugs without help. We are here to guide you through safe and effective withdrawal from prescriptions such as Vicodin, Adderall, and codeine. We personalize your treatment based on evidence-informed research, exceptional psychotherapy, nutritional support, and integrative healing methods designed to treat your whole body. Contact us today to learn how we can help you.