What are the most addictive prescription drugs

Addictive Prescription Drugs

Prescription medications have enabled countless people to achieve improved health and experience a better quality of life. But when these substances are used improperly, they can be a source of considerable harm. People who abuse addictive prescription drugs put themselves at risk for a wide range of negative outcomes, including overdose and death.

Prescription Drug Addiction Statistics

Prescription drug abuse and addiction remain prevalent problems throughout the United States. In Addition, prescription painkillers (most of which contain opioids) are the most commonly abused substances in this category, but other common medications also contribute to this national concern.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) has reported the following statistics about the misuse of addictive prescription drugs among people age 12 and older in 2020:

  • More than 9 million people in the U.S. abused a prescription painkiller in the past year. 
  • About 2.3 million people developed an addiction to prescription painkillers in the past year.
  • About 6.2 million people misused a prescription tranquilizer or sedative in the previous 12 months.
  • About 1.2 million people became addicted to prescription tranquilizers and sedatives, and about 758,000 became addicted to prescription stimulants.
  • Prescription drugs were involved in more than 34,000 overdose deaths in the past year.

List of Addictive Prescription Drugs 

The category of addictive prescription drugs includes a variety of medications. Virtually every prescription medication is dangerous when it is not used properly. In many cases, the dangers of prescription drug abuse include addiction.

As indicated by the statistics in the previous section, opioids, stimulants, and depressants are among the most commonly abused prescription drugs.


Opioids are present in most prescription painkillers. Also, opioids are a drug category that includes morphine, heroin, and fentanyl. These are highly addictive substances. 

In addition to easing pain, opioids elicit a sense of relaxed euphoria. This makes them attractive for people who are seeking a recreational high. Once a person has become addicted to a prescription opioid, painful withdrawal symptoms can make it extremely difficult to stop using the drug.

Here are a few prescription opioids, listed with the brand name first and the generic in parenthesis:

  • OxyContin (oxycodone)
  • Vicodin (hydrocodone)
  • Percocet (oxycodone)
  • Percodan (oxycodone)
  • Lortab (hydrocodone)
  • Dilaudid (hydromorphone)
  • Actiq (fentanyl)


The category of stimulants includes both illegal drugs such as cocaine and legal substances such as many common prescription medications. 

Prescription stimulants usually affect the production of neurotransmitters such as dopamine (which is associated with pleasure and reward) and norepinephrine (which can increase a person’s ability to focus). Prescription stimulants are often prescribed to treat people who have attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

Common prescription stimulants include:

  • Adderall (amphetamine/dextroamphetamine)
  • Ritalin (methylphenidate)
  • Concerta (methylphenidate)
  • Dexedrine (dextroamphetamine)


The category of prescription depressants includes substances that are often also referred to as tranquilizers or sedatives. Depressants are often prescribed to people who have anxiety disorders and sleep problems. Many prescription depressants contain benzodiazepines, or benzos. In addition, the presence of benzos is one reason why many depressants are addictive prescription drugs. 

Examples of prescription depressants include:

  • Valium (diazepam)
  • Klonopin (clonazepam)
  • Xanax (alprazolam)
  • Ambien (zolpidem)
  • Lunesta (eszopiclone)

How to Overcome Prescription Drug Addiction

Prescription drug addiction is a treatable condition. When you get the type and level of care that matches your needs, you can regain control of your behaviors and end your abuse of these medications.

One of the most important initial decisions about prescription drug addiction treatment is determining which level or levels of care are right for you. At Sanctuary Treatment Center, we offer the following options:

  • Detoxification: This short-term program can help you complete withdrawal safely and with minimal distress. If powerful withdrawal symptoms have prevented you from ending your prescription drug abuse, detox may be the ideal first step for you.
  • Inpatient rehab: At the inpatient level, you will benefit from round-the-clock care and a full daily schedule of clinical services. During inpatient rehab, you will live at the facility where you are receiving treatment. 
  • Outpatient treatment: You may step down to an outpatient program for continued support after you’ve completed inpatient rehab. Or, if you don’t require 24/7 supervision, you may enter treatment directly at the outpatient level.

At each of these levels, you may receive both medical and therapeutic support. For example, if you have become addicted to a prescription opioid, you may receive medication to ease your withdrawal symptoms and eliminate the powerful cravings you would otherwise experience.

The therapeutic component of treatment for prescription drug addiction will help you address the concerns that may have contributed to your substance abuse in the first place. During therapy, you can also develop skills that will empower you to resist the triggers that could undermine your recovery.

Therapy for prescription drug abuse may include elements such as:

  • Individual and family therapy
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
  • Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT)
  • Neurofeedback
  • Holistic therapy

Additionally, if your abuse of addictive prescription drugs is related to untreated trauma, eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) therapy and other trauma therapies may be included in your treatment plan.

Begin Recovery From Addictive Prescription Drugs Today

Sanctuary Treatment Center offers multiple levels of personalized treatment for adults who have become addicted to prescription drugs. At our center in Los Angeles, you can receive comprehensive care from compassionate professionals in a comfortable and welcoming environment. When you’re ready to end your abuse of addictive prescription drugs, the Sanctuary Treatment Center team is here for you. Contact us today to learn how we can help.

We Take Insurance!

Sanctuary Treatment Center accepts most private PPO insurance plans, as well as some private HMO plans. Through private insurance plans, individuals and families can access high quality addiction treatment services. If you have questions regarding insurances, please give us a call.

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