Massive Drug-Dealing Problem in MassachusettsPrescriptions Drugs by the Numbers in the United States

Prescription painkillers are more prevalent than tobacco use in America, pointing to an opioid epidemic. In fact, roughly 38 percent of adults in the United States use painkillers (whether legally or illegally), with an estimated 2.2 million suffering from opioid addiction.

Those figures are no surprise considering there has been a 400 percent increase in opioid prescriptions over the last 10 years, enough to fill one prescription for every adult in the country. In fact, the U.S. accounts for nearly all the world’s opium consumption, by way of opioid prescriptions and heroin, that is.

The consequences? Dire, to say the least. An unprecedented 28,000 Americans died in 2014 from opioid overdose, more than double the death rate from 2000, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The opioid epidemic has led to an explosion in heroin abuse, with 80 percent of new heroin users who started with prescription painkillers. Unfortunately, the negative side effects and deadly potential consequences fail to deter many a user.

What Are the Most Commonly Abused Prescription Drugs?

Opioids top the list. Once a term used only to refer to synthetic forms of opium, opioids is now the generally accepted term for all the drugs in that family, whether they are synthetic, natural or a hybrid of the two (semi-synthetic). These include commonly prescribed drugs such as:

  • Vicodin
  • Morphine
  • Fentanyl
  • Codeine
  • Norco
Benzodiazepines such as Xanax take the second spot, as they were involved in nearly 8,000 overdose deaths in the U.S. in 2014. Side effects of benzodiazepines can include troublesome symptoms such as:

  • Vertigo
  • Irritability
  • Lethargy
  • Insomnia
  • Seizures

Continue reading to learn more about these and other prominent prescription drugs.


These naturally derived drugs have been in use since ancient times for pain relief and, more recently, as anesthesia during surgery. The Chinese began using opium recreationally more than 500 years ago, a practice that was later prohibited. Some forms of opiates, such as heroin and morphine, were sold as over-the-counter medications in the U.S. as recently as the early part of the 1900s. Opiate use can lead to nausea, vomiting, liver damage and other serious complications. Learn even more about opiates by clicking the following button.

Learn More About Opiates


Tranquilizers such as Valium (diazepam) and Xanax (alprazolam) account for tens of thousands of rehab admissions in the U.S. each year. Although benzodiazepines (aka benzos) are prescribed to treat anxiety, insomnia and more, medical professionals still don’t precisely know how these drugs work within the brain. Benzodiazepine addiction recovery can be especially slow, requiring close management with the help of a health care provider.

Learn More About Benzos


OxyContin is the brand name of a powerful synthetic drug – one that is capable of easing terrible pain, but also of causing terrible problems. It short-circuits the pleasure centers in the brain, often leading to dependence. Overdosing can lead to respiratory failure, coma and death.


Codeine, morphine, fentanyl and analogs work in the same manner as oxycodone, which is the generic form of OxyContin. Oxycodone can deadly when not handled properly. Oxycodone use can cause nausea, vomiting, sweating and mood changes.