Prescription Drugs: The Dangers

Prescription drugs can be just as dangerous and addictive as illegal substances. Although society rarely stigmatizes painkillers and sleeping pills as much as illicit drugs, these medicines can just as easily ruin a person’s life. In fact, their legality and ease of acquirement may make them even more dangerous overall. In order to prevent more people from becoming addicts, communities need to become better educated about the dangers of various prescription drugs.


Heroin and straight opium are illegal, but a large number of opium derivatives are available at pharmacies nationwide. Two of the most common are Vicodin and Oxycontin – opiates commonly used to treat chronic pain. Others include Codeine, Percocet, Methadone, and Fentanyl.

Some of these drugs are prescribed by doctors to patients with painful diseases. Others are given in small amounts to dental patients who encounter a few weeks of oral pain following invasive procedures. Finally, some of these opiates were developed specifically to treat addiction to others. A common example is the treating of heroin addiction with Methadone.

No matter the reason for prescription, these drugs can be dangerously habit-forming. Patients will sometimes develop addictions by taking far more than the prescribed dosages. In other cases, people will divert these drugs to street sale, where people will buy them purely for recreational purposes.

Although most opiates induce euphoric effects in users, they also cause a number of painful effects. These include nausea, vomiting, and drowsiness. Long-term use can even lead to serious medical complications such as heart infections, clogged blood vessels, and liver disease.

Recovering from opiate addiction is also particularly painful. Detoxification can be extremely risky, and rehab patients must take special medications to speed the process and avoid heart palpitations, seizures, and even cardiac arrest. Overall, opiates are some of the most common but most deadly prescription drugs currently abused.

Sleep Aids

Sleeping pills such as Ambien and Lunesta can help insomniacs find relief, but they are also dangerously addictive. People with sleeping problems typically have drastically impaired mental and emotional faculties, making them particularly susceptible to addictive behaviors. It is common for people to become addicted to sleep aids even when they take the recommended doses.

It is also easy for these pills to fall into the hands of people without prescriptions. One user may give a few doses to a friend with sleeping troubles, and that friend may soon develop an addiction of their own. With sleep aids, it is alarmingly easy to fall into an addictive cycle of insomnia and drug-induced sleep.


Most people think of meth when they think of amphetamines. However, Ritalin, Adderall, and other common medications for attention deficit disorder are also amphetamines. These drugs are often diverted to illegal sale and use, and college students have been known to abuse them for study purposes.

At high doses, these drugs can produce effects similar to cocaine and other stimulants. Irregular heartbeats, nausea, irritability, and disorientation are common. Addiction also leads to withdrawal symptoms such as fatigue, memory loss, and depression. People who abuse amphetamines often develop dependencies and become unable to maintain normal moods and mental acuities without them.

If you are struggling with a prescription drug problem, you need to act now. Call the number at the top of your screen for an immediate free consultation. The call is completely confidential, and our experts manage what is widely considered one of the most successful inpatient drug rehab centers in the country. We can give you the resources and support to help you take back control of your life, but we can’t do anything if you don’t call.

Was this page helpful?
Thank you for your feedback.

American Addiction Centers (AAC) is committed to delivering original, truthful, accurate, unbiased, and medically current information. We strive to create content that is clear, concise, and easy to understand.

Read our full editorial policy

While we are unable to respond to your feedback directly, we'll use this information to improve our online help.

You aren't alone. You deserve to get help.
Recovery First is located in Hollywood, Florida, which is easily accessible from Miami or Ft. Lauderdale. Our small groups means you get more one-on-one support and make stronger connections with the community. Take the next step toward recovery: learn more about our addiction treatment programs near Florida's Atlantic coast or learn about how rehab is affordable for everyone.