Medicines that are at risk of misuse and dependence

Published 8 Oct 2022 • By Rahul Roy

Medication is an invaluable part of many people’s lives to remove illnesses and get healthier. These drugs have the capability to influence a person's immunity system positively and sometimes in negative ways in the form of side-effects. However, this dependency on prescription drugs can translate to a full blown addiction for some individuals who rely on it so much such that they misuse and overconsume it. 

So why do people misuse prescription drugs? What are the most commonly abused medications? What are its consequences, and what can we do to tackle this problem? 

We explain it all in our article! 

Medicines that are at risk of misuse and dependence

Prescription drug abuse can happen across all age groups for various reasons. The quantity they consume might be different as do the drugs but, in the end, all of them are consuming medication that is not prescribed for them for a sustained period of time- which entails calling it an addiction

In fact consumption of prescription drugs that have not been prescribed by the doctor have increased substantially in the last couple of years and it is estimated that - more than a quarter of a million people in England are thought to have taken prescription drugs far beyond the recommended usage. 

Why does Prescription Drug Use Happen? 

Prescription drugs are quite accessible compared to illicit drugs. And there also exists a mis-conception among some demographics that since these are prescription drugs made by reputed pharmaceutical companies, they are safe to consume without prior recommendation by a qualified medical practitioner. Some reasons why people might abuse these medicines are:- 

  • Over dependence on the medication due to prolonged prescribed use, so it is difficult to wean off it as the patient gets habituated to its use,
  • Easy accessibility to prescription drugs as opposed to illicit drugs, 
  • Some young adults consume them to feel ‘good’ or get ‘high’, 
  • Stimulation of sensory function to boost productivity through increased focus for study or work, 
  • Inability to sleep peacefully pushes some people to consume medication for better rest, 
  • Reduce the appetite in order to lose weight, 
  • Peer pressure to consume so as toto gain acceptance from peers around,
  • Experimentation with the drug to test its effects on the mind and body. 

What are the most commonly abused prescription drugs? 


Pain killers or pain relievers are used to reduce or eliminate pain. For example, opioids-the most commonly abused prescription drug have a notorious reputation for getting patients hooked on the substance even after doctors do not prescribe them anymore. The main reason why they are so addictive is because it releases endorphins - the feel good neurotransmitters of the brain, that are extremely effective in dulling pain and inducing pleasure which explains why it is so difficult to stop using it. 

Some examples of pain killers are Vicodin®, OxyContin, Percocet®, Fentanyl etc. 


Its use has been rising in recent years due to the large increase in depression cases in the last couple of years especially in teens and young adults. These drugs do not provide immediate benefits but work over an extended period of time and that’s why anti-depressant addicts are those who have been using it for a large time period of time. 

Zoloft®, Prozac®, Paxil® and Lexapro® are a few of the well-known anti-depressants.  


Stimulants are used to improve sensory functions by working on the central nervous system to improve alertness and cognitive abilities. These substances influence the dopamine and norepinephrine levels in the brain which play a role in enhancing concentration and reducing fatigue

Popular stimulants in the market are Adderall®, Ritalin®, Dexedrin®, Ephedrine etc. 

Tranquilizers or anxyolitics 

Tranquilizers are drugs that are commonly prescribed for providing relief for muscle or anxiety spasms and for inducing sleep. They work by slowing down brain activity and reducing certain nerve impulse transmissions, thereby producing a calming effect. However consistent long term use can lead to blurred vision and weakened muscles

Some popularly consumed tranquilizers are Xanax®, Valium®, Amytal® and Nembutal®.  

What are the consequences of abusing prescription drugs? 

Abuse of prescription drugs can lead to severe health and mental problems, even sometimes leading to death. Consumption with alcohol or illicit drugs can dangerously influence the effects of the drugs, leading to more harm than good. 

  • Painkillers such as opioids can cause low blood pressure and induce vomiting, difficulty breathing, coma and in extreme instances death,
  • Anti-depressants can hamper the blood pressure and breathing rate, thereby causing dizziness, fainting, uncontrollable shaking and even causing convulsions,
  • Stimulants cause a high blood pressure, increase the body temperature to a dangerous level, bring about problems to the heart- in some cases leading to heart failure,
  • Tranquilizers can lead to a loss of appetite, persistent coughing, mood swings, nausea, memory lapses, decreased heart rate and risk of respiratory failure. 

How to prevent abuse of prescription drugs? 

Patients should consume prescriptions drugs responsibly as advised by the doctor. Some measures they could take are- 

  • Following the instructions of the doctor and taking medication as prescribed by the qualified practitioner,
  • Reducing dependency on the drug by getting help from friends and family or through professional assistance, 
  • Abstain from sharing medications with another individual, 
  • Stricter verification on the part of medical institutions in handing out prescription drugs to ensure controlled drug use, 
  • Limit access to prescription drugs for teens and children, 
  • Increase awareness of the dangers of prescription drug abuse, 
  • Responsibly disposing off old or unneeded medications, 
  • Verify the legitimacy of the medicines purchased from physical stores or from websites, 
  • Never mix with alcohol or illicit substances as it could lead to overdose. 

In case of an addiction, it is important to support the individual to wean off the drug by helping him gain independence from the drug through therapy or rehab. Peer support groups can also help and the support of friends and family is invaluable. Obviously, it is important to understand that one form of treatment will not work for everyone but like with most addictions it is necessary for the addict to acknowledge his problem and take affirmative positive action. Recovery is a difficult but necessary step to get better and if not, life will get difficult instead. Practice safe use of prescriptions drugs everyone! 

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avatar Rahul Roy

Author: Rahul Roy, Health Writer

Rahul is a content creator at Carenity, specialised in health writing. Rahul is pursuing his masters in management from EDHEC Business School and in his spare time loves to play football and listen to music.

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Who reviewed it: Candice Salomé, Health Writer

Candice is a content creator at Carenity and specialises in writing health articles. She has a particular interest in the fields of women's health, well-being and sport. 

Candice holds a master's degree in... >> Learn more


robjmckinney • Ambassador
on 08/10/2022

Well it does seem a more serious problem up North, the rest seem to busy working to be affected, by new data published today in the media. Most seem to blame their financial position or lack of work turning to such prescribed drugs!

on 08/10/2022

Got nothing really to do with being from up North and the financial position.

It is a known fact that up north people tend to have a lot less decent jobs to choose froj`m

robjmckinney • Ambassador
on 08/10/2022


Just reporting what was said in a Skynews report from a newspaper review on a new study but I wiill always bow to superior knowledge on this specific subject. It was quite a coincidental that this report was released last night discribing this as a major issue for the future that will bite our society in its rear end if nothing is done. The massive difference between North and South needs to be recognised and a solution found. We have great social problems facing us here in this country, by denying they don't exist and the reasons why, we won't find a solution. This is a genuine social problem that medicine is a failing stop gap, doing more harm than good!

on 08/10/2022


Great comment and i totally agree. What I was trying say was and perhaps it was misunderstood and that I think where the poor or richer people live and those with better paid jobs there is a big divide. I live up north and your lucky get a job paying anything higher than the minimum wage, and we have to live on that which does have a big effect on peoples health with the worries of the bills, the food they can buy etc. So we have to scrape by not getting the right proteins, vitamins and therefore suffer more in the health category.

I don't think they will ever admit problems don't exist, they do and there is a big genuine social problem and till they sort that out the divide is only going to get wider and as you rightly said do more harm than good. Even though from up north I do know quite a few southerners and used to go down visit them, and the way of life they lived was totally different, they laughed when you said you were on rubbish wages saying they wouldn't get out of bed for that.

I didn't actually see what was said on skynews mate, I'm just going off the comments made so far so I could be barking up the wrong tree in which case I apologise in advance sincerely to you.

All we can hope for is they come to some kind of agreement and get it sorted soon or heavens forbid what hope the next couple of generations are going to have.

robjmckinney • Ambassador
on 08/10/2022

I managed to find relevant reports on several gov.uk/NHS websites which may indeed be the basis for the article. I must admit not finding the article after reviewing five papers this morning but I will continue my search. This government published report uses the word deprivation as the focus of the over prescribing of such drugs and paper linked this to Northern England. But this report clearly shows our GPs are using inappropriate drugs as a fix and highlighting the issue may lead to changes. Looking in general on published government reports, it is clear that this is a long turn problem which a short term fix has turned into a serious problem. Even the NHS published extensive reports but a lot confuse illegal drugs when it seems prescribed drugs are a bigger issue it seems and is preventable by our GPs. ''Dependence on prescription medicines linked to deprivation - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)'' ''Opioids: risk of dependence and addiction - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)''

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