What is Prescription Drug Abuse:
Some medications have psychoactive (mind-altering) properties and, because of that, are sometimes abused—that is, taken for reasons or in ways or amounts not intended by a doctor, or taken by someone other than the person for whom they are prescribed. In fact, prescription and over-the-counter (OTC) drugs are, after marijuana (and alcohol), the most commonly abused substances by Americans 14 and older. Learn more
Also more about:
- DrugFacts: Cough and Cold Medicine Abuse
- Emerging Trends - "Sizzurp", "Purple Drank"
- Prescription Stimulants (Abuse) Health Effects
- Prescription Sedatives, sleeping pills*, or anxiolytics (Abuse) Health Effects
- Prescription Opioids (Abuse) Health Effects
Commonly Abused Drugs:
Commonly abused classes of prescription drugs include opioids (for pain), central nervous system (CNS) depressants (for anxiety and sleep disorders), and stimulants (for ADHD and narcolepsy).
- Fentanyl (Duragesic®)
- Hydrocodone (Vicodin®)
- Oxycodone (OxyContin®)
- Oxymorphone (Opana®)
- Propoxyphene (Darvon®)
- Hydromorphone (Dilaudid®)
- Meperidine (Demerol®)
- Diphenoxylate (Lomotil®)
Central nervous system depressants include:
- Pentobarbital sodium (Nembutal®)
- Diazepam (Valium®)
- Alprazolam (Xanax®)
- Dextroamphetamine (Dexedrine®)
- Methylphenidate (Ritalin® and Concerta®)
- Amphetamines (Adderall®)
Statistics and Trends
Swipe left or right to scroll.
|Drug||Time Period||8th Graders||10th Graders||12th Graders|
|Any Prescription Drug||Past Year||-||-||15.00|
|Cough Medicine (non-prescription)||Past Year||2.90||4.30||5.00|
|Narcotics other than Heroin||Past Year||-||-||7.10|
Swipe left or right to scroll.
|Drug||Time Period||Ages 12 or Older||Ages 12 to 17||Ages 18 to 25||Ages 26 or Older|
|Psychotherapeutics (Nonmedical Use)||Lifetime||20.3||[8.8]||[26.6]||20.6|
- CDC VitalSigns™ - Opioid Painkiller Prescribing
- CDC - Addressing Prescription Drug Abuse in the United States, Current Activities and Future Opportunities
- America’s Addiction to Opioids: Heroin and Prescription Drug Abuse (Testimony to Congress, May 2014)
- Prescription Opioid and Heroin Abuse (Testimony to Congress, April 2014)
- NIDA for Teens: Prescription Drug Use
- NIDA for Teens: PEERx
- Prescription Drugs poster
- Heads Up: Real News About Drugs and Your Body- Year 10-11 Compilation for Students
- Heads Up: Real News About Drugs and Your Body- Year 10-11 Compilation for Teachers
- Prescription Drugs of Abuse Chart
- Efforts of the National Institute on Drug Abuse to Prevent and Treat Prescription Drug Abuse (Testimony to Congress, July 2006)
Get more information on Emerging Trends, we will update this page with the latest research findings as they develop.
Get this Publication
Cite this article
APA style citation
National Institute of Drug Abuse. Prescription Drugs & Cold Medicines Retrieved from http://www.drugabuse.gov/drugs-abuse/prescription-drugs-cold-medicines
Examines the non-medical use of prescription drugs-opioids, central nervous system depressants, and stimulants-describing adverse health effects of their use and the prevention and treatment of addiction.
Safe Disposal of Medicines
Looking for Treatment?
Use the SAMHSA Treatment Locator or 1-800-662-HELP.
Prescription Drug Abuse
Learn what you can do to
prevent medicine abuse at