Commonly Misused Prescription Drugs | Center on Addiction

Commonly Misused Prescription Drugs

Commonly Misused Prescription Drugs

Commonly misused prescription drugs include barbiturates, benzodiazepines and sleep medications, opioid and morphine-based pain relievers, amphetamines, ADHD medications and DXM found in cough syrups. This list provides examples of their commercial and street names, how they are administered, their effects, health risks and other information.

Substances: Category & Name Examples of Commercial & Street Names DEA Schedule*/How Administered**
Barbiturates Amytal, Nembutal, Seconal, Phenobarbital: barbs, reds, tooies, yellows, yellow jackets II, III, IV/injected, swallowed
Benzodiazepines Ativan, Halcion, Librium, Valium, Xanax, Klonopin: candy, downers, sleeping pills, tranks IV/swallowed
Sleep Medications Ambien (zolpidem), Sonata (zaleplon), Lunesta (eszopiclone) IV/swallowed

Acute Effects: Sedation/drowsiness, reduced anxiety, feelings of well-being, lowered inhibitions, slurred speech, poor concentration, confusion, dizziness, impaired coordination and memory
For barbiturates - euphoria, unusual excitement, fever, irritability

Health Risks: Slowed pulse, lowered blood pressure, slowed breathing, tolerance, withdrawal, addiction; increased risk of respiratory distress and death when combined with alcohol
For barbiturates - life-threatening withdrawal in chronic users

  Opioids & Morphine Derivatives  
Substances: Category & Name Examples of Commercial & Street Names DEA Schedule*/How Administered**
Codeine Empirin with Codeine, Fiorinal with Codeine, Robitussin A-C, Tylenol with Codeine: Captain Cody, Cody, schoolboy; (with glutethimide: doors & fours, loads, pancakes & syrup) II, III, IV/injected, swallowed
Morphine Roxanol, Duramorph: M, Miss Emma, monkey, white stuff II, III/injected, swallowed, smoked
Methadone Methadose, Dolophine: fizzies, amidone (with MDMA: chocolate chip cookies) II/swallowed, injected
Fentanyl & analogs Actiq, Duragesic, Sublimaze: Apache, China girl, dance fever, friend, goodfella, jackpot, murder 8, TNT, Tango & Cash II/injected, smoked, snorted
Other Opioid Pain Relievers (Oxycodone HCL, Hydrocodone Bitartrate, Hydromorphone, Oxymorphone, Meperidine, Propoxyphene) Tylox, Oxycontin, Percodan, Percocet: Oxy, O.C., oxycotton, oxycet, hillbilly heroin, percs Vicodin, Lortab, Lorcet: vike, Watson-387 Dilaudid: juice, smack, D, footballs, dillies Opana, Numorphan, Numorphone: biscuits, blue heaven, blues, Mrs. O, octagons, stop signs, O Bomb Demerol, meperidine hydrochloride: demmies, pain killer Darvon, Darvocet II, III, IV/chewed, swallowed, snorted, injected, suppositories

Acute Effects: Pain relief, euphoria, drowsiness, sedation, weakness, dizziness, nausea, impaired coordination, confusion, dry mouth, itching, sweating, clammy skin, constipation
For fentanyl - 80–100 times more potent analgesic than morphine
For oxycodone - muscle relaxation, twice as potent analgesic as morphine
For codeine - less analgesia, sedation, and respiratory depression than morphine
For methadone - used to treat opioid addiction and pain; significant overdose risk when used improperly

Health Risks: Slowed or arrested breathing, lowered pulse and blood pressure, tolerance, addiction, unconsciousness, coma, death; risk of death increased when combined with alcohol or other central nervous system depressants
For oxycodone - high potential for misuse

Substances: Category & Name Examples of Commercial & Street Names DEA Schedule*/How Administered**
Amphetamines Biphetamine, Dexedrine, Adderall: bennies, black beauties, crosses, hearts, LA turnaround, speed, truck drivers, uppers II/injected, swallowed, smoked, snorted
Methylphenidate Concerta, Ritalin: JIF, MPH, R-ball, Skippy, the smart drug, vitamin R II/injected, swallowed, snorted

Acute Effects: Feelings of exhilaration, increased energy, mental alertness
For amphetamines - rapid breathing, tremor, loss of coordination, irritability, anxiousness, restlessness

Health Risks: Increased heart rate, blood pressure, and metabolism, reduced appetite, weight loss, nervousness, insomnia, seizures, heart attack, stroke
For amphetamines - delirium, panic, paranoia, hallucinations, impulsive behavior, aggressiveness, tolerance, addiction
For methylphenidate - increase or decrease in blood pressure, digestive problems, loss of appetite, weight loss

  Other Compounds  
Substances: Category & Name Examples of Commercial & Street Names DEA Schedule*/How Administered**
Dextromethorphan (DXM) Found in some cough and cold medications: Robotripping, Robo, Triple C not scheduled/swallowed

Acute Effects: Euphoria, slurred speech

Health Risks: Increased heart rate and blood pressure, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, confusion, paranoia, distorted visual perceptions, impaired motor function

* Schedule I and II drugs have a high potential for misuse. They require greater storage security and have a quota on manufacturing, among other restrictions. Schedule I drugs are available for research only and have no approved medical use. Schedule II drugs are available only by prescription and require a new prescription for each refill. Schedule III and IV drugs are available by prescription, may have five refills in 6 months, and may be ordered orally. Most Schedule V drugs are available over the counter.

** Taking drugs by injection can increase the risk of infection through needle contamination with staphylococci, HIV, hepatitis, and other organisms. Injection is a more common practice for opioids, but risks apply to any medication taken by injection.

Source:  National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2012). Commonly abused drugs. [Online]. Retrieved May 21, 2013 from

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