Most of us take prescription drugs only for the reason the doctor intended. Nevertheless, an estimated 48 million people (aged 12 and older), according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, have used prescription drugs for nonmedical reasons in their lifetime. That figure represents approximately 20% of the U.S. population.
In recent years, there has been a dramatic increase in prescription drug misuse or abuse. This increase has led to a corresponding increase in ER visits because of accidental overdoses as well as admissions to drug treatment programs for drug addictions.
Addiction is a chronic, often relapsing brain disease. It causes compulsive drug seeking and use despite harmful consequences to the addicted person as well as the people around that person. The abuse of drugs — even prescription drugs — leads to changes in the structure and function of the brain.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the three classes of prescription drugs that are often abused include:
Opioid used to treat pain
Central nervous system (CNS) depressants, such as benzodiazepines (Xanax, Valium, Ativan, Klonopin), used to treat anxiety and sleep disorders
Stimulants, such as amphetamine and dextroamphetamine (Adderall) or methylphenidate (Concerta, Daytrana, Methylin, Ritalin) used to treat attention deficit disorder and narcolepsy(a sleep disorder).