Prescription Drug Abuse

Medical Author: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
Medical Editor: William C. Shiel, Jr. FACP, FACR

In 2010, around 7 million people in the U.S. were "nonmedical" users of prescription drugs. This amounts to about 2.7% of the total population. Estimates of the number of people who have used a prescription drug for a nonmedical use are even higher and range to up to 20% of the population. In 2009, 16 million Americans age 12 and older had taken a prescription pain reliever, tranquilizer, stimulant, or sedative for nonmedical purposes at least once in the year prior to being surveyed. Although any type of medication has the potential to be abused, certain groups of prescription drugs are most commonly abused.

Painkillers: Opioids such as codeine and morphine are narcotics prescribed to treat pain. Other drugs in this class include oxycodone (OxyContin), hydrocodone (Vicodin, Norco, etc.), meperidine (Demerol), hydromorphone (Dilaudid), meperidine (Demerol), diphenoxylate (Lomotil), and propoxyphene (Darvon).