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Prescription Drug Facts | side effects history & prevention
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Need information? Help is close at hand. Check out our Prescription Drugs info below for an in-depth look at this drug.


Commonly abused prescription drugs are typically in three classes as shown in the Drug Chart section:

See the Pain Killer Addiction section.


See the Sleeping Pills section.


Adderall®; Dexedrine®, (dexies); Ritalin® (kibbles and
bits, pineapple); Tenuate®; Ionamin®


Other abused prescription drugs that are not as common include muscle relaxants such as carisoprodol and cyclobenzaprine.

Stimulant 2
Source: DEA

Pain Killer 1
Source: DEA

Sleeping Pills
A variety of prescription tranquilizers and sleeping pills. Source: DEA

Sleeping Pills
A variety of prescription tranquilizers and sleeping pills. Source: DEA

Steroids 1
Source: DEA

Heroin 5
Testosterone Cypionate 200mg/ml. Source: DEA

Commercial and Street Names for Prescription Stimulants

RitalinMethylphenidate, crackers (Talwin and Ritalin combination that is injected), ones and ones (Talwin and Ritalin combination that is injected), poor man’s heroin (Talwin and Ritalin combined), Ts and Rs (Talwin and Ritalin combined), speedball (Ritalin mixed with heroin), Vitamin R, West Coast.

Description of Prescription Stimulants

A class of drugs that enhance brain activity. Usually found in tablets and capsules. Medically, they are now prescribed for only a few health conditions. Ritalin, Adderall, and Dexedrine are used to treat attention deficit disorders (ADHD and ADD), primarily in children and youth. Youth may sell their prescriptions illegally to high school and college students trying to stay awake while studying for exams. Ritalin, Adderall, and Dexedrine are also prescribed to treat narcolepsy. Tenuate, Ionamin and Dexedrine have limited use as an aid in treating obesity.

These prescription tablets can create powerful stimulant effects and serious health risks when crushed and then snorted, or injected.

Effects of Prescription Stimulants

Effects can include nervousness and insomnia, loss of appetite, nausea and vomiting, dizziness, palpitations, headaches, changes in heart rate and blood pressure (usually elevation of both, but occasionally depression), skin rashes and itching, abdominal pain, weight loss, and digestive problems, toxic psychosis, and psychotic episodes. Long-term effects or high doses can result in compulsive use, feelings of hostility, paranoia, hallucinations, excessive repetition of movements, and formication (sensation of bugs and worms crawling under the skin).

Additionally, taking high doses of a stimulant may result in dangerously high body temperatures and an irregular heartbeat. There is also the potential for cardiovascular failure (heart attack) or lethal seizures.

Source: DEA, IndianaPreventionResourceCenter (IPRC)

NIDA also has a Prescription Drug Abuse Chart that shows the various categories of abused prescription drugs, commercial and street names and intoxication effects.

Sources of Black Market Prescription Drugs

Prescription drugs are produced by licensed pharmaceutical companies under strictly-controlled conditions. Black market prescription drugs are those sold on the street illegally and are sourced from a number of ways including:

  • Forged prescriptions on stolen prescription pads
  • Theft from clinics, hospitals, pharmacies, wholesalers, and doctor offices
  • Getting prescriptions from several different doctors (“doctor shopping”)
  • Friends or relatives who have legitimate prescriptions
  • From the Internet
  • From unscrupulous doctors
  • Thefts from treatment programs (typically methadone)
  • Wholesale and retail drugs stolen while being transported
  • Thefts from private homes
  • Mugging people leaving a pharmacy

Source: enerG Magazine, London Drugs

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For additional printed resources on prescription drug addiction see the Sleeping Pill or Pain Killer Addiction sections.

Addiction by Prescription (2001) Joan E Gadsby

Aging and Addiction: Helping Older Adults Overcome Alcohol or Medication Dependence (Hazelden Guidebooks) (2002) Carol Colleran and Debra Jay 

The Antidepressant Solution: A Step-by-Step Guide to Safely Overcoming Antidepressant Withdrawal, Dependence, and "Addiction" (2004) Joseph Glenmullen

Hidden Addictions: A Pastoral Response to the Abuse of Legal Drugs (1998) Bridget Clare McKeever

How to Fake a Back Exam (A Medical Professional’s Guide to Prescription Drug Diversion) (2004) Phillip Stephens

Impact of Prescription Drug Diversion Control Systems on Medical Practice and Patient Care (Nida Research Monograph ; 131) (1993) James R. Cooper and National Institute on Drug Abuse

The Official Patient’s Sourcebook on Prescription Drug Dependence: A Revised and Updated Directory for the Internet Age (2005) Icon Health Publications

Pain Killer: A “Wonder” Drug’s Trail of Addiction and Death (2003) Barry Meier

Painkillers: Prescription Dependency (2008) Ida J. Walker

Freedom From Addiction (2011) R. Winn Henderson

Prescription for Addiction?: The Arizona & California Medical Drug Use Initiatives: Hearing Before the Committee on the Judiciary, U.S. Senate (1996)
Prescription Drug Abuse (2005) Karla Fitzhugh

Prescription Drug Abuse (Drug Abuse Prevention Library) (2000) Jeremy Roberts

Prescription Drug Abuse and Addiction: Answering Your Questions (1994) Donald R. Wesson, David E. Smith, Walter Ling

Prescription Drug Abuse and Dependence: How Prescription Drug Abuse Contributes to the Drug Abuse Epidemic (1997) Daniel P Greenfield

Prescription Drug Abuse and Diversion (2008) Peter Staats and Jennifer Bolen

Prescription Drug Abuse: The Hidden Epidemic: A Guide to Coping and Understanding (2001) Rod Colvin

Prescription drugs: abuse and addiction (2001) U.S. Dept of Health and Human Services

Prescription Drugs (Drug Abuse & Society: Cost to a Nation) (2006) Fred Ramen

Prescription Junkie: One Woman’s Triumph Over Pill Addiction (1980) Mary Ann Crenshaw

Romancing Opiates: Pharmacological Lies and the Addiction Bureaucracy (2006) Theodore Dalrymple

Swallowing a Bitter Pill: How Prescription and Over-The-Counter Drug Abuse Is Ruining Lives – My Story (2001) Cindy R. Mogil

When Painkillers Become Dangerous: What Everyone Needs to Know About OxyContin and Other Prescription Drugs (2004) Drew Pinsky

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Alternatives to Prescription Drugs

Prescription Alternatives, Third Edition : Hundreds of Safe, Natural Prescription-Free Remedies to Restore and Maintain Your Health (2003) Earl Mindell and Virginia Hopkins

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For additional online resources on prescription drug addiction see the Sleeping Pill or Pain Killer Addiction sections.

General Information on Prescription Drug Abuse

Scholastic has Abuse of Inhalants and Prescription Drugs: Real Dangers for Teens. This report reveals that drug abuse among teens dropped between 2001 and 2004 except for inhalants and prescription drugs such as Oxycontin and Vicodin.

Prescription Drug Abuse is an article written by Floyd P. Garrett, MD.

Prescription Drug Abuse FAQs (June 2007) Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse (CCSA).

Prescription Drugs contains authoritative information from the National Library of Medicine, the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and other government agencies and health-related organizations. This site provides comprehensive information about prescription drug abuse. MedlinePlus.

Prescription Medications: Misuse, Abuse, Dependence, and Addiction (May 2006) is designed to educate health professionals about prescription drug abuse. Substance Abuse Treatment Advisory, Volume 5, Issue 2.

Some Commonly Prescribed Medications: Use and Consequences provides information about prescribed opioids, depressants, and stimulants and includes possible harmful effects if the substances are misused. National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) Research Report Series.

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Websites Specific to Prescription Drug Abuse

CONNECT to fight prescription drug abuse

Adolescents and Prescription Drug Abuse

Getting High on Prescription and Over the Counter Drugs is Dangerous: A Guide to Keeping Your Teenager Safe in a Changing World provides information to parents on how to keep their teenagers safe from these new “party” drugs.

For more information on adolescents see the School Drug Abuse section.

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Diversion and Prescription Drug Abuse

Don’t Be Scammed by a Drug Abuser (December 1999) is designed to inform and educate the healthcare practitioner to ensure that prescription drugs continue to be available for legitimate medical and scientific purposes while preventing their diversion into the illicit market. Drug Enforcement Administration DEA).

Drug Addiction in Health Care Professionals is designed to help medical practitioners recognize the signs that may indicate that a colleague or co-worker is diverting prescription drugs to support a substance abuse problem. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).

Methamphetamine: Preventing the Retail Diversion of Pseudoephedrine (August 2003) is designed for employees of businesses that sell common household items used in the illicit manufacture of methamphetamines. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).

National Association of Drug Diversion Investigators is an organization whose members are responsible for investigating and prosecuting pharmaceutical drug diversion. The organization has proven to be a valuable asset to law enforcement, the pharmaceutical industry and health regulatory personnel.

A Pharmacist’s Guide to Prescription Fraud (February 2000) is designed to ensure that controlled substances continue to be available for legitimate medical and scientific purposes while preventing their diversion into the illicit market. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).

Enforcement and Prescription Drug Abuse

Synthetic Drug Control Strategy: A Focus on Methamphetamine and Prescription Drug Abuse is a report that presents the Administration’s strategy for responding to the illicit use and production of methamphetamine, and the illicit use, or non-medical use, of controlled substance prescription drugs.

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Medication Safety Practices and Prescription Drug Abuse

The Institute for Safe Medication Practices is a nonprofit organization educating the healthcare community and consumers about safe medication practices.

Monitoring and Prescription Drug Abuse

Survey of State Prescription Monitoring Programs (January 2007) is a report on Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs (PMPs) in the US which help states prevent and detect the diversion and abuse of pharmaceutical controlled substances.  IJIS

Oxycontin and Prescription Drug Abuse

Oxycodone (OxyContin) Fact Sheet

For more information on OxyContin see the OxyContin section.

Muscle Relaxants, Carisoprodol and Prescription Drug Abuse

Also goes by trade name Soma®. Carisoprodol is a prescribed muscle relaxant used as an adjunct to rest, physical therapy and other measures for relief of acute, painful musculoskeletal conditions.

Source: Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).

Carisoprodol – Drugs and Human Performance Fact Sheets (April 2004) is a detailed fact sheet on effects of carisoprodol and meprobamate use, particularly on performance and driving. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

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Muscle Relaxants, Cyclobenzaprine and Prescription Drug Abuse

Cyclobenzaprine also goes by the trade name Flexeril®. Cyclobenzaprine is a muscle relaxant that is intended for short-term use in the treatment of pain. Cyclobenzaprine is used to enhance the effects of other depressants including alcohol, barbiturates, benzodiazepines, and narcotics.

Cyclobenzaprine (January 2013) Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).

Pregnancy and Prescription Drug Abuse

Is It Safe for My Baby? (2003) informs mothers on the risks and recommendations of prescription drugs taken during pregnancy. Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH).

Prescription Stimulants, Methylphenidate and Prescription Drug Abuse

Emergency Department Visits Involving ADHD Stimulant Medications (2006) Drug Abuse Warning Network, The Dawn Report.

Methylphenidate (May 2013) Drug Enforcement Administration

Prescription Stimulants, Ritalin and Prescription Drug Abuse

See the Methylphenidate section above.

Research and Prescription Drug Abuse

NIDA Research Report: Prescription Drug Abuse and Addiction (August 2005) includes research on preventing and detecting prescription drug abuse and treating prescription drug addiction. National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). NIH Publication 01-4881.

For additional research on prescription drug abuse see the Non-Medical Use and Abuse: Prescription-type and Over-the-Counter Drugs section of the Office of Applied Studies website, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).

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I’m Dancing As Fast As I Can(1982)
Starring: Jill Clayburgh, Nicol Williamson, Daniel Stern, Joe Pesci, Dianne West, Geraldine Page
Director: Jack Hofsiss

Introducing Dorothy Dandridge (1999)
Starring: Halle Berry as Dorothy Dandridge, Brent Spiner as Earl Mills, Klaus Marie Brandauer as Otto Preminger.
Director: Martha Coolidge

Online Videos

General Information

Drug Dealer Testimonial (February 2008) warns parents that drugs found at home are becoming the drugs of choice. Parents: The Anti-Drug.

Anti-Depressants and Prescription Drugs

Paxil Addiction (October 2006) is an anti-depressant that can cause severe withdrawal effects. ABC Primetime Live.

The following is a college student’s testimonial after being prescribed Paxil ™:

The Paxil Diaries – Episode 1: Preface
The Paxil Diaries – Episode 2: Beginning
The Paxil Diaries – Episode 3: Day 6
The Paxil Diaries – Episode 4: Three Weeks

Adderall and Prescription Drugs

Adderall talks about why college students use this drug. Anthony Prera, Bruin 29 News.

Adderall Abuse (December 2007) is a news story.

Adderall Epidemic is created by a group of college students. Includes an interview with a drug abuse specialist.

Black Market Adderal Selling talks about Adderall sales on college campuses. Matthew Eisenman.

Ritalin and Prescription Drugs

Dangers of ADHD Drugs also provides testimonials from parents and their children. Fred A. Baughman Jr., MD.

Students Seek Competitive Edge by Taking Ritalin, Adderall (May 2007) shows students have been taking them for a competitive edge. Students call them smart pills or brain steroids. FOX 5/Atlanta

Teens and Prescription Drugs

Officials Warn About Teen abuse of Prescription Drugs Teri Christensen of Partnership for a Drug-Free America and U.S. Attorney McGregor Scott, KCRA.

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