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Taking Your Medicine: The 15 Most Addictive Prescription Drugs

It's called a Skittles Party. Teenagers raid the medicine cabinets of parents, grandparents, and other family members to come up with a mish-mash of prescriptions like opioids, anxiety medications, sleeping pills, muscle relaxers, cough syrup, and stimulants. This smorgasbord of dangerous narcotics is then thrown into a community bowl and party-goers pop pills at random to see what psychoactive effects they might have. Does this sound terrifying to you? It should.

Almost 12% of America's teenagers are abusing prescription medications, and a great many of them have no idea how dangerous these drugs actually are. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), 873 teens died from prescription overdoses in 2016 and the number is increasing every year.

While the number of teenagers abusing prescription drugs is alarming, the problem is not isolated to young people. An estimated 54 million people in the United States have abused prescription pills at some point, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), and 32% of all people who seek treatment for addiction are dependent on prescription medications. Have you ever wondered if the medications your doctor prescribes put you at risk for addiction? Or perhaps you already know that you or someone else has a pill habit that is posing a danger to their health. Read on to find out more about the 15 most addictive prescription drugs and what their abuse may mean for you or someone you care about.

Alarming Statistics: Prescription Drug Abuse in the United States

There are several layers to the dilemma of prescription drug abuse in the United States. First, let's take a look at the history of the problem.

While humankind has battled with addiction for millennia, there was usually some stigma associated with the use and abuse of psychoactive drugs before the 20th century. For example, even when opium and morphine epidemics were at their worst throughout history, most people knew the dangers of abusing those drugs and either tried to avoid abusing them, or hid their addictive behaviors whenever possible to forego social humiliation.

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Enter Big Pharma. It wasn't until the 1960s that pharmaceutical companies began mass-marketing psychoactive prescription medications to both doctors and consumers. The first big mass-media push was for Valium, an anti-anxiety medication that was nicknamed "Mother's Little Helper" because it was so popular among mid-century housewives. To this day, Valium has been one of the most prescribed psychotropic medications in U.S. history. When the addictive qualities of Valium became known, doctors began to scale back on prescriptions, but Valium was soon replaced by Xanax.

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Xanax was aggressively marketed as a safer alternative to Valium when it was, in fact, both stronger and more addictive than its predecessor. Once again, hundreds of thousands of people were prescribed Xanax for anxiety and panic attacks throughout the 1980s, creating yet another generation of addicts that had mistakenly trusted the wisdom of their doctors.

Don't get us wrong. There are cases in which benzodiazepines like Xanax may be necessary to treat severe panic disorder, certain types of addictions, or other similar mental conditions, but now doctors know that prescriptions like these must be given out with great caution and only when absolutely necessary.

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The 1960s through the '80s was the age of the tranquilizer, and that was bad enough. Then during the 1990s, in walked OxyContin.

When Purdue Pharma created the high-strength opioid OxyContin, the world thought that the answer to chronic pain had been found. At least, that's how it was marketed. Purdue insisted that Oxy's slow-release formula made it much less addictive than other inferior painkillers and so suggested that the drug be prescribed for any sort of chronic ache or pain. After a few years of courting doctors with expensive gifts and fancy resort getaways in the guise of educational seminars, the prescriptions came rolling in - about 6 million prescriptions in a five-year period, to be exact.

Prescription Drug Abuse Stats
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After 12 years, millions of unintentional addictions, and over $600 million in class-action lawsuits, Purdue stopped marketing Oxy as "less-addictive", but an epidemic was already in the making. Even after doctors stopped doling out opioids like candy, people turned to the black market to buy them, and eventually, many of them turned to heroin.

Here are some stats to illustrate the current situation:

  • Now there are over 15 million people in the United States abusing prescription drugs and even more people who turned to harder street drugs after their prescriptions ran out.
  • Prescription medications are responsible for more overdose deaths than all illicit drugs combined.
  • Almost 50,000 drug overdose deaths were associated with prescription drugs in 2016.
  • Over 30,000 of those deaths involved opioids.
  • The United States consumes 80% of the world's opioid drugs.
  • About 80% of people with addictions to illicit street drugs abused prescription drugs first.
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So there you have it, America's obsession with prescription medications is understandable, if not excusable, when you see where it started. Doctors trusted "pharmaceutical research" and consumers trusted their doctors. A few hundred million prescriptions later, it would appear that everyone was wrong. If you need pills to get through your day, it's a problem. Period.

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Which Medications Present Risk of Abuse?

Not every prescription medication presents risk of addiction. Antibiotics, non-narcotic pain relievers, and most allergy meds are all safe; they do not cause dependence over time, even if misused. (Non-addictive medications can still cause overdose, however; so please don't go taking 17 Tylenol in one sitting.)

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Below we've listed the main categories of prescription medications that are known to cause physical and/or psychological dependence if abused or taken for too long.

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Prescription opioids are part of a class of drugs that has been officially recognized as the most addictive substances on the planet. Any medication that is derived from opium or morphine is considered an opioid and can be highly addictive, even when taken as directed by a doctor. A few of the medications that fall into this category include:

  • Oxycodone
  • Hydrocodone
  • Codeine
  • Morphine
  • Fentanyl

Opioids work by binding to opioid receptors in the brain, causing a flood of dopamine neurotransmitters (happy chemicals) to inundate the brain with a rush of euphoria. They also eradicate all feelings of pain, of course, which is why they are so valuable in medical treatment. Consistent abuse of opioids will cause a fast dependency to develop within the body and result in severe withdrawal symptoms when the user stops taking them.


Usually of the amphetamine variety, stimulant medications are most often prescribed to treat attention-deficit disorders like Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). They include some of the following brand names:

  • Adderall
  • Ritalin
  • Dexedrine
  • Concerta

Historically, stimulants have also been abused as 'pep pills' to increase energy levels and improve productivity among students and young professionals. Today this is still their most popular application, creating dependency for those that use them on a daily basis and sometimes leading to the use of stronger illicit drugs like cocaine or meth.

Sleep Medications

Most sleeping medications are prescribed for genuine sleep problems like chronic insomnia. The problem is that almost all sleeping pills are addictive by nature, since they lead the user to believe that they cannot fall asleep without a pill. Some of the most common sleep meds include:

  • Ambien
  • Restoril
  • Lunesta
  • Prosome
  • Dalmane

Sleep medications may also present risk of abuse and addiction when users take them for recreational purposes to induce euphoria and hallucinogenic experiences.


This class of medications, known as 'benzos', is prescribed for anxiety, panic disorders, and sleep problems. Addiction is common among benzos, even when used as directed. Since anxiety medications are often taken on a daily basis, tolerance and physical dependence builds up quickly. The symptoms for benzodiazepine withdrawal are also particularly severe, making it harder for individuals to quit using them once they start. The most common benzodiazepines are:

  • Xanax
  • Klonopin
  • Librium
  • Valium
  • Ativan


Sedatives of the barbiturate variety are no longer commonly prescribed in the United States because of their tendency to induce overdose (think Marilyn Monroe); however, these drugs are still given for patients who suffer from seizures or as strong sedatives when necessary in medical situations. Some barbiturate medications that are still in use today include:

  • Phenobarbital
  • Secobarbital
  • Amytal

When sold on the black market and abused, barbiturates are one of the most addictive and dangerous prescriptions that exist. These drugs are so lethal, in fact, that they are commonly used as a method of suicide.

The 15 Most Addictive Prescription Drugs


There are several factors that make the synthetic opioid fentanyl the most dangerous drug in the United States.

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First is its sheer potency. Fentanyl is the strongest opioid on the market, up to 100 times more potent than morphine and 50 times stronger than heroin. This fact not only makes it more addictive, it also makes it much more likely to cause overdose. Especially when users are accustomed to other opioids like heroin or weaker prescription painkillers, one dose of fentanyl can easily prove fatal. Over 20,000 people died from fentanyl overdoses in 2016 and so far, these numbers are only increasing with time.

Second is the unpredictability of illicit fentanyl that is produced in illegal drug labs. Since the drug went off patent in 1981, laboratories around the world have been trying to recreate it, sometimes with alarming success. This street fentanyl varies in potency and may be diluted with other substances, making it difficult for sellers and dealers to dose it correctly. The average dose for pain is about 50 micrograms (not milligrams!) but even so much as two milligrams (about the volume of seven poppy seeds) can cause a fatal overdose. With no way to gauge how much of the actual drug is in black market fentanyl, it is almost impossible for users to measure out the exact amount necessary to get high without overdosing.

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Third is the more recent trend of cutting fentanyl into low-quality illicit drugs, like heroin or cocaine, in order to increase their perceived potency. Everything from meth to counterfeit Xanax may contain fentanyl as a cutting agent, and in cases such as these, street buyers might not have any idea that they are actually taking fentanyl. Heroin laced with fentanyl is especially deadly, since it profoundly increases risk of overdose. It is estimated that up to 70% of street heroin now contains fentanyl; it should not be shocking then that fentanyl-related deaths have increased by 500% in recent years.

Street Names for Fentanyl

  • Apache
  • China Girl
  • Murder 8
  • Tango
  • Cash
  • TNT

Fentanyl Withdrawal Symptoms

Fentanyl withdrawal is similar to withdrawal symptoms of other opioids, although it may be more intense depending on the potency of the drug and the length of the addiction. If fentanyl was mixed with other drugs like meth or cocaine, it could be marked with more severe psychological symptoms as well. Here are the most common fentanyl withdrawal symptoms:

  • Sweating
  • Fevers
  • Increased heart rate
  • Insomnia or intense drowsiness
  • Tremors
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal cramps and pain
  • Muscle pain
  • Restlessness
  • Hallucinations
  • Confusion

2. OxyContin

OxyContin ranks second on our list, not only because of its strength, but also because of its role in the current opioid epidemic. You already know that Purdue Pharma's wild and unconscionable marketing of OxyContin led to millions of unnecessary and harmful prescriptions of the drug from the late 1990s. Purdue's marketing campaigns on humane pain management were so effective, in fact, that a shift took place across the industry in the way pain management was approached. Opioid prescriptions of all kinds increased alongside millions of prescriptions for Oxycontin and the pills flooded the marketplace, becoming more widely available on the black market as well, for a time.

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The more unnecessary opioid prescriptions that were given out; the more unintentional addictions formed. Pre-existing addicts also cashed in on the wide availability of OxyContin, seeking out prescriptions from lax doctors or buying the pills on the black market when heroin was hard to find.

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Since 1996 until today, prescription opioid abuse has increased by 500% and drug overdose deaths have increased by 400%. A coincidence? We think not.

Almost 10 million people have abused Oxycontin within the last 20 years, and that's only counting those who reported the abuse. Since the formula for the medication was changed to prevent abuse in 2010, addiction rates to OxyContin have decreased, but addiction rates to other opioids have increased exponentially as users turn to other measures to get their fix.

Street Names

  • Oxy
  • Oxycotton
  • OC
  • Kickers
  • Hillbilly Heroin
  • Roxy

OxyContin Withdrawal Symptoms

  • Insomnia
  • Runny nose
  • Sweating
  • Yawning
  • Dilated pupils
  • Goosebumps
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Agitation
  • Anxiety
  • Muscle aches
  • Abdominal cramping
  • Diarrhea

3. Percocet

Going right on down the list of opioids (is it any surprise that opioids make the top of the list?), Percocet is a combination of oxycodone and acetaminophen often prescribed for injury or surgery-related pain.

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Although Percocet was never as over-prescribed as the widely marketed OxyContin, it has been the cause of many unintentional addictions. It is a strong opioid intended for strong pain and is often necessary to relieve patients after a traumatic injury or major surgery. The problem is that some people may be slightly more vulnerable to addiction but are not aware of this propensity because they have never taken addictive substances. Then, after a serious accident or surgery, they are prescribed a week's worth of strong opioids, not realizing how easy it is to become dependent after only a few days of steady use.

Then, the prescription ends, some withdrawal symptoms return and residual pain from the injury or surgery comes back full force. The patient asks for a refill and often the doctor gives them the pills for another week or two. Tolerance builds, and the patient starts to take the pills a little too often, or cuts them in half to make them more effective. Now, an addiction has set in, and serious withdrawal symptoms begin to plague the patient when the prescription runs out again. Even though the doctor refuses more refills, the patient asks that guy down the hall if he knows anyone who sells them, just to "wean himself off" the stuff. But he never can quite wean himself all the way off the pills and keeps returning to buy more. By this point, it's all over and a perfectly functional, normal person has become a full-blown drug addict.

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This is how Percocet has led many people down the path of opioid addiction. It is also a popular recreational drug in hip-hop and club culture, popping up in plenty of rap songs and movie scenes. While Oxy is for addicts, Percs are more of a cool, casual pill to pop, even though they are essentially the same thing, with one dangerous side effect. The oxycodone in the pill is a serious drug, but the acetaminophen also presents significant danger. When Percocets are abused, the buildup of acetaminophen in the system can cause permanent, irreversible damage to the liver. So not only does this drug present the risk of addiction and overdose like all other prescription opioids, it also presents a more long-term and significant threat to the life of an addict through acute liver damage.

In 2015 almost 5 million people abused prescription drugs containing oxycodone. It is also one of the most common prescription medications associated with overdose deaths.

Street Names for Percocet

  • Percs
  • Oxycet
  • C.
  • Greenies
  • Rims

Percocet Withdrawal Symptoms

  • Aching muscles
  • Restlessness
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Watery eyes
  • Runny nose
  • Chills
  • Irritability and anxiety
  • Muscle and joint pain
  • Stomach cramps
  • Excessive sweating
  • Shallow breathing
  • Increased heart rate
  • High blood pressure
  • Insomnia

4. Vicodin

With its relatively low dose of hydrocodone and low-key vibe, Vicodin is a more easily obtained opioid that seems to be an acceptable form of drug abuse among party crowds and Hollywood stars. Popular music, movies, and TV all convey Vicodin as a mainstream party favor that's "really not so bad". Perhaps that's why the drug played a role in the addictions of celebrities like Eminem, Jamie Lee Curtis, Matthew Perry, Michael Jackson, and Heath Ledger.

With Eminem rocking a Vicodin tattoo and Dr. House popping them like candy, it is not so shocking that over 24 million people in the United States have abused hydrocodone in their lifetimes.

Although the problem is especially rampant among young people in a party context, there is also a number of professionals and seniors citizens who become addicted to the drug unintentionally. For whatever reason, getting clean from a Vicodin addiction as just as difficult and painful as detoxing from any opioid.

Vicodin Street Names

  • Vikes
  • Vicos
  • Norcos
  • Hydros
  • Fluff
  • Scratch

Vicodin Withdrawal Symptoms

  • Agitation
  • Muscle aches
  • Insomnia
  • Sweating
  • Yawning
  • Anxiety
  • Runny nose
  • Watery eyes
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Stomach cramps and pain
  • Loss of appetite and anorexia
  • Depression
  • Trouble concentrating and thinking clearly
  • Joint and backaches
  • Goosebumps
  • Irregular heart rate

5. Dilaudid

Dilaudid is made up of hydromorphone, yet another kind of opioid that is often used in clinical settings for 'breakthrough pain' - pain that does not respond well to other opioids. Although it can be more difficult to obtain, Dilaudid is a popular opioid prescription for abuse because of its strength and versatility.

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The drug is manufactured in different forms that can be taken orally as a pill or liquid, injected, or inserted as a rectal suppository (yes, right in the bum). Stronger than morphine, when Dilaudid is abused it can give the user a powerful high initially, but tolerance develops quickly. This makes for a dangerous combination because Dilaudid also comes with a high risk of overdose, so if users increase their dose in response to the higher tolerance, they are very likely to OD.

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Since Dilaudid is difficult to obtain outside of a hospital setting, it is not as popular as other opioids for abuse. When available though, it is a crowd favorite.

Dilaudid Street Names

  • Dillies
  • Big D
  • M80s
  • Hospital heroin
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Dilaudid Withdrawal Symptoms

  • Intense drug cravings
  • Body cramps
  • Sweats
  • Anxiety
  • Agitation
  • Low blood pressure
  • Muscle and bone pain
  • Diarrhea
  • Restlessness
  • Tremors
  • Shaking
  • Vomiting

6. Codeine

The final opioid and number six on our list is codeine. Codeine is a less potent form of prescription painkiller and is sometimes abused in its tablet form; however, the most popular way to abuse codeine is by drinking the liquid cough syrup that contains it. For years codeine cough syrup was prescribed regularly for severe cough and flu symptoms. It was present in most family medicine cabinets, making it easily available to teens when the 'lean' craze began.

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Lean is an intoxicating concoction dreamed up by a DJ in the Houston area in the late 1980s. It is prepared by mixing codeine cough syrup with Sprite and Jolly Ranchers, resulting in a sickly sweet drink that so inebriates consumers that they sway when they walk, hence the 'lean' moniker. Throughout the 1990s and early 2000s, lean gathered a cult following within the hip-hop industry and exploded onto the club scene. To this day, music artists and partygoers post Instagram photos of "double-cups", the preferred receptacle for lean drink.

Although codeine cough syrup has become more regulated in recent years, it remains popular; the drug has led to multiple prominent overdoses and deaths, particularly within the hip-hop industry.

Street Names for Codeine Cough Syrup

  • Lean
  • Sizzurp
  • Purple Drank
  • Dirty Sprite

Besides its role in the purple drank craze, codeine is also used to create a powerful synthetic opioid called desomorphine that is utilized as an anesthetic in some countries. In the United States desomorphine is only available through illegal drug labs, where it is often botched and contaminated, resulting in severe infections and rotting flesh.

Overall, abuse of codeine is far more serious than one would expect from the least potent of prescription opioids.

Codeine Withdrawal Symptoms

  • Runny nose
  • Sweating
  • Yawning
  • Insomnia
  • Irritability and anxiousness
  • Diarrhea
  • Enlarged pupils
  • Chills or goosebumps
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Stomach cramps

7. Methadone

Although technically an opioid as well, methadone is of the synthetic variety and is most commonly prescribed as a part of opioid replacement therapy (ORT) for opioid addiction. Ideally, this is how methadone treatment works:

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A patient presents to an addiction rehabilitation center or methadone clinic in hopes of getting clean from heroin or painkillers. They are prescribed the synthetic opioid methadone to trick the brain into thinking it is still receiving opioids, thereby reducing withdrawal symptoms and making the detox process more bearable.

Over time, methadone doses would be reduced until all withdrawal symptoms pass and the patient can complete enough drug rehab treatments to cope with opioid cravings in a healthy way. Then, the patient will quit taking methadone altogether and go on to live a happy, sober lifestyle.

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That's the desired outcome of methadone treatment.

Unfortunately, methadone comes with its own risks. If abused, this drug can create a euphoria similar to other opioids. It can also happen that patients who are trying to wean off of methadone are unable to do so without intense cravings or relapsing back to heroin. In other words, methadone has been known to create dependency in its own right.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 20% of people who receive methadone as ORT treatment continue to take the drug for ten years or more, and as many as one-third of opioid-related overdoses are associated with methadone.

Street Names for Methadone

  • Done
  • Methadose
  • Dollies
  • Metho
  • Wafer
  • Fizzies

Methadone Withdrawal Symptoms

  • Insomnia
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Confusion
  • Sweating
  • Chills
  • Head and body aches
  • Tremors
  • Lightheadedness
  • Irritability
  • Mood swings
  • Restlessness
  • Fatigue
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea

8. Valium

Valium (diazepam) is part of a class of drugs called benzodiazepines, or "benzos", that are most commonly used to treat a wide variety of anxiety disorders. It was the first ever prescription medication to be widely marketed to both doctors and consumers; its overwhelming success forever changed the way pharmaceutical companies marketed drugs and had a significant effect on American society as a whole.

As a mild tranquilizer and anti-anxiety drug, it was marketed as the ultimate stress reliever to take the edge off of everyday burdens. Going right along with an emerging trend for doctors to diagnose patients (especially women) with nervous disorders and anxiety, Valium seemed like the answer for every stressed professional and overburdened housewife. To this day, Valium has been one of the highest-selling psychoactive medications of all time.

Although prescriptions to Valium dropped off during the 1980s as it's addictive qualities were revealed, it has long been abused as a recreational drug. Alongside other benzos, Valium is part of an ever-growing trend for young people to mix benzos with other substances as a way to amplify their effects, or as a method to come down softly after long binges on stimulants like meth and cocaine. No matter the reason, polysubstance overdoses involving benzos like Valium have grown by almost 800% in the past 15 years.

Street Names for Valium

  • Yellow V
  • Blue V
  • V
  • Tranks
  • Howards
  • Vallies

Valium Withdrawal Symptoms

  • Panic attacks
  • Memory issues
  • Weakness
  • Reduced appetite
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Headache
  • Tremors
  • Sensory hypersensitivity
  • Heart palpitations
  • Muscle twitching
  • Restlessness and insomnia
  • Numbness
  • Severe anxiety
  • Confusion
  • Sweating
  • Muscle pain
  • Vomiting

9. Xanax

The leading anti-anxiety medication in the world and one of the most-prescribed psychotropic drugs today, Xanax has had a long and disastrous heyday in American history.

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Like OxyContin, Xanax (alprazolam) was once marketed as a safer, less-addictive alternative, leading to a rash of prescriptions in the 1980s and '90s. In those days, it was a trend of sorts for psychiatrists to diagnose panic disorder for any range of anxiety symptoms, a disorder that they presumed to solve with long-term Xanax prescriptions. Of course, its potential for abuse and addiction was recognized quickly, and prescriptions are doled out somewhat more carefully today, although the drug remains one of the best treatments for legitimate panic and acute anxiety disorders.

That was how hundreds of thousands of middle class, middle-aged Americans became addicted to Xanax. Now that its potential as a recreational drug is well-known, however, abuse of Xanax and other benzo anxiety medications is growing enormously among young people alongside opioids. This is fueled in a great part by the music industry.

Music has taken to Xanax like housewives to Valium, and hip-hop especially embraces the medication as a recreational and delightful drug. Xanax is mentioned in hundreds of songs by the likes of Danny Brown, Eminem, Lil' Wayne, Three 6 Mafia, and Lil' Peep, who died of an overdose of Xanax and Fentanyl.

Despite its popularity in pop culture, Xanax is not to be taken lightly in the world of recreational pill-popping. It is often present in cases of polydrug abuse, such as the polysubstance overdoses that took the lives of Heath Ledger, Amy Winehouse, Whitney Houston, and Brittany Murphy.

Street Names for Xanax

  • Xannies
  • Zanbars
  • Footballs
  • Bars
  • Benzos
  • Bricks

Xanax Withdrawal Symptoms

  • Weight loss or weight gain
  • Heart palpitations or tachycardia
  • Sweating or excessive perspiration
  • Tremors or shaking (particularly in the hands)
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Diarrhea or soft stool
  • Headache
  • Convulsions or seizures
  • Sore, stiff muscles
  • Muscle spasms or twitches
  • Paranoia and fear
  • Anxiety and panic
  • Withdrawing from family and friends
  • Insomnia or restless sleep
  • Nervousness or tension
  • Confusion or depression
  • Irritability

10. Klonopin

Klonopin, or clonazepam, is another benzodiazepine like Valium and Xanax; this one is more often prescribed for seizure disorders, although it is also used to treat certain types of anxiety and panic attacks. The drug is surprisingly prevalent in American society, with almost 24 million prescriptions written for it in 2015.

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Although Klonopin is less potent than other benzos, the drug lasts longer. When it comes to abuse, the Klonopin high is subtle, providing a long-lasting, calming, sedative effect. However, when mixed with other substances, Klonopin can amplify the effects of other drugs, making them feel more potent. For this reason, Klonopin is often mixed with other substances, especially alcohol. The problem with this trend is that alcohol and Klonopin both slow central nervous system (CNS) functions like breathing and heart rate, greatly increasing the user's chances of overdose.

Klonopin Street Names

  • Kpin
  • Pin
  • Super Valium
  • Clons
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Klonopin Withdrawal Symptoms

  • Extreme anxiety
  • Panic attacks
  • Irritability
  • Mental confusion
  • Fatigue
  • A lack of focus and motivation
  • Cravings
  • Body aches
  • Tremors
  • Nightmares
  • Seizures
  • Coma or death in some cases
  • Reduced coordination
  • Sweating
  • Chills

11. Adderall

Although amphetamines have been in regular use in American culture since the 1920s, Adderall's debut occurred much later. It started with the emergence of hyperactive and attention disorders in the late 1960s, when it first became widely known that mild stimulants like Ritalin could be used to help hyperactive children concentrate in school.

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The condition of ADHD was not officially recognized until 1987 and shortly after, the diagnoses came flooding in. From the 1990s onward, between 10% and 16% of all children in the United States have been diagnosed with ADHD, and most of those are prescribed mild stimulants like Adderall to help them concentrate and focus in school.

While Adderall has helped children and teenagers to cope with the symptoms of ADHD, there are consequences. One consequence is that children grow into adults, and many young adults today feel the need to continue taking Adderall in order to concentrate at college or work, even though they probably no longer need the drug. Another consequence is that older teeanagers and college students often abuse the drug to improve their performance in school or sell it to their peers for recreational use.

Adderall, or "study buddies" as the pills are often referred to in school environments, is abused on an enormous scale, often by young people without a prescription. Sometimes it is taken to improve performance in school or work; it is also used recreationally to help users stay up all night partying at clubs and raves. The risk of Adderall is two-fold when you consider that it is often mixed with alcohol, and that it can lead to the abuse of harder drugs like cocaine once a tolerance has built up.

Regular abuse of Adderall has been associated with cardiovascular issues, increased blood pressure, and dangerously high heart rate. When mixed with alcohol, it also greatly increases a user's risk of alcohol poisoning. Almost two million people have abused Adderall in the United States.

Adderall Street Names

  • Study Buddies
  • Addys
  • Speed
  • Pep Pills
  • Beans

Adderall Withdrawal Symptoms

  • Anxiety and irritability
  • Panic attacks
  • Fatigue or lack of energy
  • Intense craving for more Adderall
  • Sleep problems
  • Intense hunger
  • Phobias or panic attacks
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Unhappiness
  • Depression

12. Ambien (Zolpidem)

America's favorite sleep medication is also addictive, even if its manufacturers insist that it is less so than other psychotropic sleep aids. Ambien presents possibilities of addiction on several levels. First, even if it is used as directed, Ambien can be habit-forming because users may create a psychological dependence to the medication and feel that they are unable to fall asleep without the help of this or similar drugs. Second, Ambien has also become a popular drug to abuse since it can create euphoria or hallucinogenic effects if crushed and snorted.

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Despite the possibility of addiction, Ambien is only classified as a schedule IV controlled substance, meaning it is less regulated than other sleep aids like sedatives or benzos. About 40 million prescriptions are given out each year, making it easier to obtain than some other substances for those who are looking for a cheap, quick way to get high.

According to hip-hop artist Eminem, his addiction to prescription drugs started with Ambien when he became totally dependent on it in order to sleep. When he built a tolerance to the drug, he turned to other tranquilizers and opioids to help him relax and sleep. Eminem suffered two overdoses and came very near death before he managed to get clean. Eminem's story is not unique; Ambien is not as non-addictive as its manufacturers would have doctors believe.

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Street Names for Ambien

  • Zombie Pills
  • A-minus
  • Sleepeasy
  • Tic Tacs

Ambien Withdrawal Symptoms

  • Delirium
  • Flushing
  • Panic attacks
  • Anxiety
  • Mood swings
  • Irritability
  • Rapid heart rate and breathing
  • Rebound insomnia
  • Seizures (rare)
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Abdominal cramps or discomfort
  • Uncontrolled crying or depression
  • Cravings for Ambien
  • Sweating
  • Tremors
  • Fatigue

13. Soma

When it comes to the recreational use of prescription medications, Soma seems pretty tame. It is a mild muscle relaxer intended to relieve muscle pain and spasms. When used as intended it only provides the user with slight feelings of relaxation and is not associated with a strong dependence-causing euphoria.

The problem is that the people who take Soma for recreational purposes do not use it as directed. Since it is both cheap and relatively easy-to-obtain in comparison to more popular drugs like Xanax and Oxy, people (especially teenagers) looking to get high take Soma in quantities much greater than intended, or they crush it and snort it. Even more common is the practice of mixing Soma with other substances to increase their potency. It is often mixed with alcohol, and when mixed with other prescription drugs, Soma cocktails have even been given cute nicknames:

  • Soma Coma: Soma mixed with codeine
  • Holy Trinity: Soma mixed with Vicodin and Xanax

These mixtures are anything but cute, however. Soma when mixed with other substances presents significant risk of coma, overdose, or death. About three million people in the United States have abused Soma and it is present in an ever-increasing number of polysubstance overdoses.

Soma Street Names

  • D
  • Dance
  • Soma Coma
  • Wallace 200s

Soma Withdrawal Symptoms

  • Anxiety
  • Diarrhea
  • Headaches
  • Abdominal cramping
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Insomnia

14. Phenobarbital

Phenobarbital is one of very few barbiturate medications that is still prescribed today. Now used almost exclusively to treat epilepsy and other seizure disorders, the drug is only prescribed when absolutely necessary because of its high risk of overdose.

At one time, barbiturates were used in a way similar to the benzos of today, to treat common anxiety symptoms. Drugs like phenobarbital were especially popular among the Hollywood crowd throughout the 1950s and '60s. They were responsible for the deaths of super celebrities like Marilyn Monroe and Judy Garland, and may even have played a role in the death of Elvis Presley.

After thousands of overdose deaths including the very prominent deaths listed above, doctors realized just how addictive and dangerous barbiturates were. By the late 1970s, prescriptions of medications like these were almost completely replaced with benzos like Valium. That did not completely end their abuse however.

Phenobarbital can be difficult to obtain, but when it is abused the drug creates an intense intoxication, similar to large quantities of alcohol. It can result in a physical dependence very quickly and has an extremely high risk of overdose because of its intense slowing effect on the CNS. So strong is this effect, if fact, that phenobarbital is one drug used for lethal injections. Over 850,000 people in the United States have abused phenobarbital and one in 10 people who overdose on the medication die as a result.

Street Names for Phenobarbital

  • Purple Hearts
  • Goofballs
  • Barbs
  • Butes
  • Nembies

Phenobarbital Withdrawal Symptoms

It is important to note that phenobarbital withdrawal can be particularly intense, even fatal. In rare cases, seizures brought on by phenobarbital withdrawal have been life-threatening; therefore it is absolutely imperative for patients to wean off of phenobarbital slowly and with direct medical supervision. Symptoms of phenobarbital withdrawal may include:

  • Anxiety
  • Muscle twitching
  • Tremor of hands and fingers
  • Progressive weakness
  • Dizziness
  • Distortion in visual perception
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Insomnia
  • Orthostatic hypotension

15. Anabolic Steroids

When thinking about addiction, many people do not consider anabolic steroids to be habit-forming, since the drugs do not produce a feeling of euphoria or high. Steroids can be habit-forming; however, because of their influence on the mind and body.

Anabolic steroids are intended to promote healing and immunity, but they are also famously abused to increase athletic performance, strength, and muscle mass among bodybuilders and athletes. The drugs create a psychological dependence, especially among competitive athletes, because users feel that their performance levels will suffer if they stop using. Since drug withdrawal symptoms will set in as well after a period of regular steroid abuse, it is apparent that steroids create a physical dependency as well.

Even more so than other types of prescription drug abuse, anabolic steroids can have catastrophic effects on the mind and body. Long-term abuse can lead to irritability and delusions, severe hormonal imbalances, kidney failure, liver damage, and a whole host of other problems. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) reports that over a million people in the United States have abused anabolic steroids at some point, most of them before the age of 24.

Street Names for Steroids

  • Roids
  • Juice
  • Gym Candy
  • Pumpers
  • Stackers
  • Trainers

Anabolic Steroid Withdrawal Symptoms

  • Reduced sex drive
  • Restlessness
  • Steroid cravings
  • Loss of muscle mass
  • Insomnia
  • Mood swings
  • Depression
  • Appetite loss
  • Fatigue
  • Hormonal changes

Approaching the Teenage Drug Abuse Problem

It is estimated that one-third of all those who abuse prescription drugs are teenagers. In some areas, as many as one in five teens have taken a prescription medication for non-medical use. Young people often fall under the misconception that any medications prescribed by a doctor must be safe, even if misused or taken by someone other than the prescribed patient. So how can parents and caregivers discourage teens from abusing prescription drugs? NIDA has two suggestions.

1. Check your Own Medicine Cabinet

NIDA research suggests that the vast majority of prescription drugs acquired by teenagers are taken from their own homes or the medicine cabinets of friends and relatives. If your medicine cabinet contains any medications with a potential for abuse, lock those medications up or if they are no longer needed, you can dispose of them. Don't flush them down the toilet, however. The Justice Department provides nationwide locations where you can safely drop off controlled substances without worrying about contaminating the environment (or contaminating your teenagers' health). If your children spend time at the houses of relatives or friends, ask those family members and parents to do the same.

2. Talk to Kids Specifically About Prescription Medication Abuse

About 25% of teenagers say that their parents don't care as much about prescription medication abuse as illicit drug abuse. Why is that?

If you are a parent, it's likely that you've talked to your kids about alcohol and drug addiction and the dangers of substance abuse. But have you specifically talked about prescription drug abuse? Since parents are not being specific about the dangers of abusing prescription medications and using medicines that are prescribed to someone else, teenagers assume that it's no big deal.

According to the research-based guide Preventing Drug Use among Children and Adolescents: A Research-Based Guide for Parents, Educators, and Community Leaders, teenagers are much less likely to abuse a substance they perceive as harmful. You can access the guide for free here.

In fact, there are many resources aimed at educating young people about the dangers of prescription drug abuse. Here are just a few:

Is Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) the Answer to the Opioid Epidemic?

Unfortunately, even with the best treatment options in the world, until an addict wants treatment and accepts treatment, they will be unlikely to recover. So while advanced addiction treatment methods like medication assisted treatment (MAT) can provide enormous support for those individuals that wish to recover, there is no ready answer for the millions who are currently abusing opioids and have no desire to seek treatment. With that being said, recent advancements in MAT and ORT have been invaluable to drug rehab centers and treatment facilities everywhere.

Medication Assisted Treatment
Medication Assisted Treatment Mobile

We've talked about how ORT can help to wean opioid addicts off of prescription drugs and soothe harrowing opioid withdrawal symptoms. The most common medications used in traditional ORT include:

  • Methadone - a synthetic opioid that does not produce the same euphoria as other opioids but does trick the brain into thinking it is receiving opioids, therefore bypassing some withdrawal symptoms and alleviating the detox process.
  • Buprenorphine - Another synthetic opioid that has less potential for abuse, since higher doses of the medication cannot produce a greater euphoria. Buprenorphine also reduces opioid withdrawal symptoms and make the process more bearable.

Ideally patients undergoing ORT will slowly be weaned off of the medications as opioid withdrawal symptoms subside. Of course, the problem with ORT is that users may become dependent on the synthetic opioids and find it difficult to wean off of them as treatment continues.

Buprenorphine Naltrexone
Buprenorphine Naltrexone Mobile

There are some alternative options to this traditional approach, however:

Suboxone is a relatively new medication that combines buprenorphine with naltrexone - an opioid antagonist that completely blocks the effects of all opioids on the brain. This combination reduces withdrawal symptoms by means of the synthetic opioid buprenorphine while simultaneously discouraging relapse or abuse of Suboxone itself by preventing any euphoric or satisfactory effects to be felt from opioids.

After the opioid withdrawal period has ended, naltrexone can also be used by itself as a relapse deterrent.

Prescription Drug Mobile

How Comprehensive Drug Rehab Treatment Works

MAT, unlike ORT, involves a lot more than medications. MAT is a comprehensive approach to drug rehab that incorporates counseling and behavioral therapy as well as prescriptions. Depending on the patient, a rehab center will incorporate the following methodologies into the program alongside medications:

  • Therapeutic Detox - Supervised detox will ensure a safe, more comfortable drug withdrawal with therapeutic activities like exercise, vitamin replenishment, mindfulness, and yoga to help the process along.
  • Dual Diagnosis Treatment - Since most addictions coincide with underlying co-occurring mental health disorders, dual diagnosis care can provide accurate diagnoses for mental health conditions along with integrated treatment for both mental conditions and addictions. When needed, integrated treatment for co-occurring disorders also includes psychiatric care and medications alongside drug dependency treatment.
  • Behavioral Therapy - These approaches provide motivation for addicts to remain abstinent, modify the beliefs and behaviors that contribute to drug abuse, and improve the life skills needed to handle stressful circumstances and everyday obstacles
  • Counseling - Addiction counseling, psychiatric counseling, and group sessions are all important factors to understanding the causes of addiction and the ways it affects lives.
  • Relapse Prevention Strategies - Different methods are used to prepare patients for addiction triggers, substance cravings, and relapse. Relapse prevention is an integral part of transitioning into a healthy, sober lifestyle.

Different Types of Drug Rehab and Addiction Treatment

The above methodologies should be a part of any successful recovery program, but there are different ways to undergo treatment. The three main types of drug rehab include:

Outpatient Treatment (OP): Intended for less severe addicts with heavy work and family responsibilities, outpatient drug rehab provides several hours of therapy per week while the patient lives at home.

Outpatient Programs
Outpatient Programs Mobile

Intensive Outpatient Treatment (IOP): While an intensive outpatient rehab program also allows the patient to live at home and maintain a flexible schedule, it provides a more thorough range of addiction therapies with more than ten hours per week of intensive drug treatment.

Inpatient Programs
Inpatient Programs Mobile

Inpatient Program (IP): Residential drug rehab facilities are called inpatient centers because the patients live full-time within the facility, receiving round-the-clock care from addiction specialists, doctors, and medical personnel. This is the ideal program for long-term or very severe addicts.

With all the different options for prescription drug abuse that exist for people of all ages, education and comprehensive treatment are key to approaching the prescription medication abuse crisis.

If someone you know is abusing prescription drugs, or if you are worried that you may have a problem with pill-popping, it's time to act. Prescription drugs are responsible for the majority of drug overdoses today. Don't be a statistic; call our addiction hotline now.

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