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The top 5 most commonly abused prescription drugs in the UK fall into 5 categories – Benzodiazepines, opioid and opiate pain killers, ADHD medications, gabapentinoids and Z- list medications.

abused prescription drug abuse
For each category there are variations in their effects, dosages, potency, drug classifications and side-effects.

Prescription drug abuse is very common, not only in those who abuse drugs in general but also in those who are prescribed medications for a genuine problem or condition.

Certain prescription drugs are more commonly abused than others. This is either due to their effects or due to their addictive properties. The most commonly abused prescription drugs are those that produce BOTH sought after effects and are addictive.

These particular prescription drugs not only are abused recreationally but also have the potential to create a full blown addiction.

Types of prescription drugs most commonly abused and their effects

There are 5 types (groups) of prescription medications that are most commonly abused for their effects. For each type there are variations that range in potency and addictiveness/abuse potential.

Prescription drugs have a list of conditions that they are licensed to be prescribed for. There are also indications for off label use, which is at the physician’s discretion.

Methods of administration can vary for each individual prescription drug. i,e oral tablet, oral solution, sublingual, transdermal patch and intravenous (IV).

Prescription drugs that are used to treat around the clock conditions also come in quick release and slow release forms. Both have the potential for abuse

The more potent the prescription drug, the higher the schedule of drug classification and the more pronounced the effects are.

What is classed as prescription drug abuse?

The indications for prescription drug abuse include:

  • Taking a prescription only medication that is NOT prescribed for you
  • Altering the route of administration from that as prescribed (ie crushing & snorting)
  • Taking more of the prescription drug than you are prescribed
  • Taking your prescription drugs with other medications, alcohol or drugs to increase the effects
  • Taking prescription medication that you no longer genuinely need

There are other ways in which prescription drugs can be abused but these are the most common methods.

All methods of abusing prescription drugs can not only lead to drug dependence and addiction but also put your life at great risk

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Mixing prescription drugs

Mixing prescription drugs together, without the knowledge of your doctor or prescriber, is not only classed as abuse but is extremely dangerous to both your physical and mental well being.

Many individuals who take prescribed drugs do not read the pamphlet accompanying the medication in full, or choose not to adhere to the advice given.

The most common method of abusing prescription drugs is continuing to drink alcohol when it is advised not to. Drinking alcohol with a prescription drug that has depressant/sedative properties is EXTREMELY dangerous and can lead to overdose and death.

You may think that you know your limits and that you are in control. The reality is that the dangerous effects of mixing prescription drugs and alcohol together are not always immediate.

Others may mix prescription drugs together in order to increase their euphoric, stimulant or sedative effects. Certain medications can interact with others, leading to disastrous and even deadly consequences.

It is always important to be brutally honest with your doctor about any medications you are taking AND if you have an alcohol or drug problem, past or present. Only then can your doctor make a fully informed decision as to how to proceed, ensuring your safety is paramount.

Signs & symptoms of prescription drug addiction

Prescription drug addiction is not always easy to identify to the untrained eye. This is because some individuals do actually adhere to their prescription but can still have a drug dependence or addiction and not even realise it.

Signs and symptoms of prescription drug addiction include:

  • Taking prescribed drugs that do not belong to you (i.e purchasing of the dark web, street dealer or friend)
  • Using more than one source for your prescription (i.e using different doctors or topping up a prescription yourself by buying more)
  • Taking a prescription for longer than genuinely required (may include making up new physical complaints or telling your doctor the complaint is not resolved when it is)
  • Trying to get prescriptions renewed before they are due (making up excuses or lies to justify renewing your prescription early, due to running out early through abuse of the medication)
  • Mixing your prescription drugs with other medications, drugs or alcohol to gain greater effect
  • Manipulating your doctor for stronger drugs, increased dosages etc
  • Continuing to take a prescription when you no longer need it because you fear the effects of prescription drug withdrawal
  • Stealing medications from others to top up your own prescription
  • Developing withdrawal symptoms if you accidentally miss a dose of your medication ( symptom of prescription drug dependence)
  • Inventing ailments for A&E admissions for the administration of strong prescription drugs

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Struggling with prescription drug addiction? Take action today…

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  1. Controlled drugs and drug dependence. NICE medicines guidelines
  2. Misuse of Drugs Act 1971
  3. Pregabalin
  4. ADHD medications
  5. TreatmentAttention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)