Identifying Prescription Drug Abuse: Signs and Symptoms

prescription drug abuse

Prescription Drug Abuse

Prescription drug abuse, especially prescription opioid abuse, is one of the biggest issues facing modern society. The United States is currently facing one of the worst opioid epidemics in the country’s history.

How Many People Abuse Prescription Drugs?

In fact, over 16 million uses of prescription drugs for nonmedical purposes were reported per year in America. In one month alone, 7 million Americans reported prescription drug abuse. Out of those 7 million, over 5 million reported abusing opioids. Opioids are prescribed for pain relief but are abused for a number of different reasons. With abuse trends rising, it is vital to understand the types of drugs that are causing such widespread abuse.

Unlike in the past, users are not turning to street drugs, instead preferring prescription drug abuse. While many different approaches must be taken to end this epidemic, being familiar with the most commonly abused prescription opioids is key to prescription drug abuse prevention.


Codeine, otherwise known as “Cody” or “Schoolboy,” is a prescription opioid that is abused in many different forms. Different forms include Tylenol with Codeine, Robitussin AC, and Empirin with codeine. Codeine is used medicinally as a pain reliever; however, a lot of users chose to abuse this prescription drug for recreational purposes. When abused, codeine has effects ranging from a euphoric feeling to feelings of impairment and confusion.

While codeine is not as powerful as other forms of prescription opioids, it is a popular drug for teens to abuse, and there is still plenty of danger to abusing the drug.

prescription drugs, prescription drug abuse, opioids, opioid abuse

Codeine has addictive properties which can lead to users forming a tolerance to the drug. Once tolerance develops, users must take more and more of the drug to feel the effects. When dosage increases, codeine abuse can lead to low blood pressure, difficulty breathing, and even death in extreme cases. Codeine is a huge contributor to the prescription drug abuse epidemic, and any use should be handled with extreme caution.


Methadone is widely known as a treatment for opioid addiction, but it can also be a drug of abuse. Methadone comes in brand names such as Dolophine and Methadose. Aside from its intended use to address opioid addiction, it can also be prescribed to manage pain. However, abusers often find the drug to create euphoria and sedation.

There are many risks to abusing methadone. If a user overdoses, they have a high chance of dying. Methadone is strictly a schedule two drug, meaning it can only be obtained by a prescription. With each refill of the drug, another prescription is required. While methadone can be used to address opioid addiction, it can also be abused and lead to overdose-related death.


In recent years, no prescription opioid has been more dangerous than fentanyl. Prescribed in forms such as Actiq, Duragesic, and Sublimaze, fentanyl is prescribed for pain relief. However, this schedule two drug has a high likelihood of abuse. This is due mainly to the strength of fentanyl. Comparatively, is nearly 1000 times more potent than morphine.

Abusers of the drug smoke, inject and snort fentanyl. Fentanyl alone is responsible for a recent spike in opioid-related deaths. In 2016, there were over 20,000 overdose deaths caused by fentanyl. Even more disturbing, the fentanyl-related deaths in 2016 were up 540% compared to three years prior. Fentanyl is one of the most dangerous and deadly prescription opioids in existence.

Oxycodone HCL

Oxycodone HCL is a prescription opioid found in a plethora of commonly abused prescription drugs. Oxycodone HCL can be found in drugs like Oxycontin and Percocet. The prescription drug is prescribed as a muscle relaxer and pain reliever. The potency (oxycodone HCL is two times as potent as morphine) gives the drug a high likelihood of abuse. Prescription drug abuse related to oxycodone HCL is so high that is one of the top ten most abused drugs by high school seniors in America.


Prescription drug abuse is an undeniable problem of the modern world. Prescription opioid abuse is a driving force of abuse that has reached epidemic levels. While there is no single way to address the issue, being familiar with some of the most commonly abused prescription opioids can help. Codeine, methadone, fentanyl, and oxycodone HCL are four of the most commonly abused drugs. Being familiar with the drugs and their effects may be the difference in preventing loved ones from becoming addicted to prescription opioids.

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