Prescription drug abuse is when someone takes a medication that was prescribed for someone else or takes their own prescription in a way not intended by a doctor or for a different reason—like to get high.  After marijuana and alcohol, prescription drugs are the most commonly abused substances by Americans age 14 and older.

There are three classes of prescription drugs that are commonly abused:

  • Opioids—painkillers like Vicodin, OxyContin, or codeine (also known as oxy, OC, oxycotton, percs, happy pills, vikes)
  • Depressants—like those used to relieve anxiety or help a person sleep, such as Valium or Xanax (also known as barbs, red birds, yellows, yellow jackets, downers, zombie pills).
  • Stimulants—like those used for treating attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), such as Adderall and Ritalin (also known as Skippy, the smart drug, Vitamin R, bennies, speed, uppers).
  • Other drugs of concern for college age students include heroine, molly/ecstasy, methamphetamine, cocaine, spice and others.

Some common effects of the use of these and other drugs include:

Increased heart rate Higher blood pressure
Muscle tension Increased risk for unsafe sex
Teeth clenching Anxiety and confusion
Nausea (feeling sick) Violent behavior
Blurred vision Mood swings
Chills or sweating Skin sore caused by scratching
Higher body temperature (can lead to serious heart, liver or kidney problems) Psychosis (hearing, seeing, or feeling things are not there)
Increased risk for HIV/AIDS or hepatitis Problems with thinking, emotion, and memory