What Prescription Drugs were Abused the Most in 2013?

What Prescription Drugs were Abused the Most in 2013?Prescription drug abuse is a significant and growing worldwide problem. The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy notes that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) classifies prescription drug abuse as an epidemic. They report that because prescription drugs are sometimes thought to be safer than street drugs, many people who begin abusing drugs for the first time do so by using a prescription drug non-medically.

A PBS report notes that the prescription drugs most often abused can be classified as opioids, depressants, or stimulants. Most prescription painkillers are opioids. They are chemically similar to drugs made from the opium poppy like heroin or morphine. Depressants include drugs that treat anxiety or insomnia, and stimulants those that are prescribed for attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or weight loss.

The Most Commonly Abused Prescription Drugs

A number of organizations monitor prescription drug abuse rates including the CDC, the Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency. Lists vary depending on whether generic versions of brand name drugs are included with the branded drugs or listed separately. Using a variety of sources, Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News compiled a list of the most abused prescription drugs of 2013. Their list is as follows:

  1. OxyContin – OxyContin contains oxycodone, which is an opioid pain reliever. It differs from other oxycodone formulations in that it is a timed-release formula and is not combined with another analgesic.
  2. Suboxone – Like OxyContin Suboxone is an opioid drug. It contains buprenorphine and naloxone. Although it is frequently abused, the drug is prescribed as a maintenance treatment for people addicted to other opioids.
  3. Concerta – Methylphenidate is the primary ingredient in Concerta. It is a stimulant drug sometimes prescribed to treat ADHD.
  4. Ambien – Ambien is a depressant. It is generally prescribed to treat insomnia.
  5. Ritalin – Like Concerta Ritalin contains methylphenidate and is used in the treatment of ADHD and narcolepsy.
  6. Zoloft – Zoloft is an antidepressant which belongs to the class of drugs known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRIs. In addition to depression it may be used to treat posttraumatic stress disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, panic, or anxiety.
  7. Lunesta – Eszopiclone is the primary ingredient in Lunesta. It is used to treat insomnia.
  8. Adderall XR – Like Concerta and Ritalin Adderall is a central nervous system (CNS) stimulant used to treat ADHD.
  9. Opana ER – Oxymorphone is the active ingredient found in Opana. It is an opioid drug used as a pain reliever.
  10. Xanax XR – Xanax is the brand name of the benzodiazepine drug alprazolam. It is generally prescribed for treating anxiety or panic disorders.
  11. Klonopin – Like Xanax Klonpin is a benzodiazepine drug. It may be prescribed to treat seizures, panic disorder, or anxiety.
  12. Fentora – Fentanyl is the primary ingredient in the drug Fentora. It is an opioid pain reliever prescribed to treat uncontrolled cancer pain.
  13. Percocet – Like OxyContin Percocet contains the opioid drug oxycodone. It also contains acetaminophen.
  14. Ativan – The benzodiazepine drug lorazepam is the primary ingredient in Ativan. The drug may be prescribed to treat anxiety or insomnia.
  15. Soma – Soma is a muscle relaxant and CNS depressant.
  16. Valium – Diazepam is the primary ingredient in Valium. It is a benzodiazepine used to treat anxiety and muscle spasms.
  17. Vicodin – Vicodin is a pain reliever containing hydrocodone, an opioid drug.

Particular drugs of abuse tend to be more popular among certain demographic groups. A 2013 WebMD article reported on a survey of prescription painkiller abusers and found that 45 percent of favored oxycodone (found in OxyContin and Percocet) and 30 percent favored hydrocodone (found in Vicodin and Lortab). They noted that OxyContin was the choice of young males and other risk-takers who preferred to inject or snort drugs. Hydrocodone was more often the choice of older users, women, those who preferred to deal with a friend or doctor rather than a drug dealer and people who preferred to take the drug orally rather than inject it.

How Prescription Drug Abuse Affects Society

Prescription drug abuse affects society in significant ways. A 2013 publication titled “Prescription Drug Abuse: Strategies to Stop the Epidemic,” notes that overdose deaths from prescription painkillers have quadrupled since 1999. More overdose deaths can be attributed to prescription painkillers than to heroin and cocaine combined. The report also notes the following:

  • In 2009 drug poisoning deaths, most due to prescription products, overtook traffic accidents to become the leading cause of injury death in the United States.
  • Every day approximately 50 Americans die from prescription painkiller overdose.
  • Between 2004 and 2011 emergency room visits related to prescription drugs more than doubled. The drugs most often involved were medications designed to treat anxiety and insomnia followed by prescription painkillers.
  • A 2011 study estimated that nonmedical use of prescription painkillers cost the U.S. economy more than $53 billion in lost productivity, criminal justice costs, addiction treatment and other medical costs.

The report notes that policy-makers are taking steps to address the problem. These include enacting laws and programs that address prescription drug monitoring, doctor shopping, medical provider education and immunity for those helping others after an overdose.  Laws are also being enacted that expand coverage for substance abuse treatment.

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