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Most Commonly Misused Prescription Drugs in the United States

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Most Commonly Misused Prescription Drugs in the United States

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, or SAMHSA, reported that among people who abused prescription painkillers in 2020, nearly 65% ​​said their main reason for doing so was to relieve physical pain. The percentage of people reporting drug abuse as a reason for getting high was 11.3%.

Abuse is defined as patients who take prescription drugs in a manner other than that recommended by their doctor. It may be like taking someone else’s prescription or taking their own in larger or more frequent doses, or for a longer period of time.

Citing data from SAMHSA, Zinnia Health identified the most commonly used prescription medications in the United States, all of which are opioid pain relievers or opioid pain relievers. This class of drugs acts on the central nervous system by blocking pain signals to the brain. In addition to relieving pain, these drugs also intensely trigger the brain’s reward centers, releasing endorphins and creating positive feelings commonly referred to as euphoria. This is what makes prescription opioids – and all opioids, for that matter – so dangerously addictive.

Prolonged use of opioids may increase a patient’s tolerance to a particular drug. With higher tolerance, the drug becomes less effective and patients do not experience the same level of pain relief and feelings of euphoria, which often leads people to seek out stronger opioids. This could explain why such a large percentage of people reported misusing prescription opioids for pain relief. For example, someone who has abused and developed a tolerance to morphine may seek something stronger like oxycodone or hydromorphone, whose effects kick in faster and more intensely.

SAMHSA also found that nearly half of people who abused painkillers (47.2%) said they got the drugs from a friend or relative, either by stealing them, buying them, or getting them for free. . About 44% of people said they got prescriptions from a health care provider. Drug diversion—or the disruption of a prescription drug along its legal, intended journey from manufacturer to physician to patient—is a contributing factor to drug abuse. Diversion occurs, among other things, through doctor purchases, theft and tampering.

The United States is in its third wave of the opioid crisis, but it is important to note that this current wave is characterized by illicitly produced synthetic opioids. Overdose deaths from commonly prescribed opioids have declined in recent years. However, knowing the uses and risks associated with these drugs can save lives. Read on to learn about the most commonly used prescription drugs in the United States.



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#8. Morphine

– Abuse in the past year (former users): 8.9%
– Misuse in the past year (general population): 0.2%

Known by its brand names Avinza or Kadian, morphine is an opioid used to treat acute and chronic pain. Although morphine can be given intravenously, it is most often taken as tablets or capsules. Morphine is closely related to other painkillers like hydrocodone and oxycodone. The potency of other opioids is often determined or compared against the potency of morphine.



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#7. Tramadol

– Abuse in the past year (former users): 9.0%
– Misuse in the past year (general population): 0.5%

Tramadol, commonly referred to by its brand name Ultram, is a synthetic opioid used to treat moderate to severe pain, usually after surgery. The drug is commonly prescribed in the form of extended-release tablets to relieve severe chronic pain caused by conditions such as fibromyalgia. In 2019, approximately 5.5 million people were prescribed Tramadol, totaling almost 20 million prescriptions. It was the 35th most prescribed drug in the United States



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#6. Codeine

– Misuse in the past year (former users): 12.2%
– Misuse in the past year (general population): 0.9%

Codeine is an opioid used to treat mild to moderate pain and is most commonly prescribed as a cough suppressant. It can also be used to treat gastrointestinal issues like diarrhea. Because codeine is milder than other opioids, users with misuse intentions increase doses to achieve a higher high. Codeine abuse can lead to more intense opioid abuse.



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#5. Hydrocodone

– Misuse in the past year (former users): 12.6%
– Misuse in the past year (general population): 1.7%

Hydrocodone is the most frequently prescribed opioid in the United States In 2020, 4.7 million people misused hydrocodone products, making it the most commonly used type of prescription pain reliever this that year. Hydrocodone, also known by its brand name Vicodin, is given to patients with moderate to severe pain, usually after surgery or injury, or to relieve pain associated with medical conditions such as cancer. In combination with homatropine, hydrocodone can also be used as an antitussive. Unlike other opioids, hydrocodone is not often illicitly manufactured and the vast majority of diverted hydrocodone is pharmaceutical.



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#4. Oxycodone

– Abuse in past year (former users): 14.5%
– Misuse in the past year (general population): 1.1%

Oxycodone is an opioid prescribed to treat persistent severe pain. OxyContin and Percocet are two of the most recognizable brands, the former being a pure form of oxycodone and the latter a combination of oxycodone and aspirin. About 3.2 million people abused oxycodone products in 2020, making it the second most misused painkiller behind hydrocodone. Oxycodone abuse is prevalent across the spectrum of geographic, demographic, and socioeconomic conditions.



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#3. Fentanyl

– Misuse in the past year (former users): 14.8%
– Misuse in the past year (general population): 0.1%

The pharmaceutical fentanyl, which this data refers to, can be up to 100 times more potent than morphine and is most commonly used to treat pain associated with advanced cancer. Legally produced fentanyl is usually given in the form of patches or lozenges. According to the Drug Enforcement Administration, misuse of these products may include ingesting the gel inside the patches or freezing the patches, cutting them into pieces, and placing them inside the cheek to absorb the contents. . Because a percentage of fentanyl remains in used patches even after three days of use, used patches are also targeted for misuse. Illegally manufactured, non-pharmaceutical fentanyl is at the heart of the third and current wave of the opioid epidemic in the United States.



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#2. Hydromorphone

– Misuse in the past year (former users): 16.6%
– Misuse in the past year (general population): 0.1%

Hydromorphone, commonly referred to by the brand names Dilaudid or Exalgo, is an opioid prescribed to treat severe pain in patients resistant to less potent opioids. It is about eight times stronger than morphine and the effects of a 1-2 mg dose can be felt in as little as 15 minutes. Hydromorphone carries a high risk of addiction and is only prescribed in certain medical circumstances, such as cancer pain management or cancer-related treatment. According to the Drug Enforcement Administration, hydromorphone was once the most commonly misused or misused drug, now supplanted by oxycodone and hydrocodone.



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#1. Buprenorphine

– Abuse in the past year (former users): 26.5%
– Misuse in the past year (general population): 0.2%

Buprenorphine is an opioid used in the drug treatment of opioid use disorder, or OUD, specifically to reduce intense withdrawal symptoms that can lead to relapse. It works by stimulating the brain in the same way as heroin or methadone, but to a lesser degree, creating a limit to its effects. It can produce euphoria without the risk of suppressing breathing, which is the true cause of death in opioid overdose. Since prolonged use of opioids inhibits the brain’s ability to produce dopamine on its own, the right dosage of buprenorphine and a comprehensive treatment plan allow patients with OUD to feel “normal” or equilibrium.

This story originally appeared on Zinnia Health
and was produced and distributed in partnership with Stacker Studio.


Tags : health careprescription drugsunited states
Joan J. Dean

The author Joan J. Dean