What happens when a person becomes addicted to prescription drugs?
There are several different types of commonly abused prescription drugs:
- Benzodiazepines. This class of drugs includes anti-anxiety and anti-seizure medications, such as Ativan, Klonopin, Valium, and Xanax. Benzodiazepines are depressants and induce feelings of well-being and drowsiness. Benzodiazepines and alcohol make an especially addictive (and dangerous) combination.
- Barbiturates. Barbiturates are used for sedation or to treat headaches and insomnia. They include medications such as Amytal and Nembutal. Barbiturates are potent depressants and can have adverse (even fatal) effects if used in combination with alcohol or other drugs.
- Opioids. Opioids are pain relievers derived from opium. Some are natural derivatives, like morphine, and others are synthetic, like oxycodone (OxyContin). Opioids mimic the effects of the neurotransmitter endorphin, inducing feelings of pleasure, euphoria, and drowsiness. Abuse of opioid drugs has resulted in an increase in overdose deaths: nearly 47,000 Americans died of an opioid-related overdose in 2018.
- Sleep medications. Drugs like Ambien and Lunesta may be abused for their sedation effect. Individuals with sleep problems may develop a dependence on these medications, fearing they will experience insomnia or restlessness without them.
- Amphetamines. Amphetamines are stimulant drugs used to increase focus and alertness. This includes medications for ADHD, such as Adderall and Ritalin. While those who have ADHD tend to experience a calming effect when taking these drugs, others experience heightened stimulation and energy, making these medications prone to abuse.