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Prescription Drug Abuse

What Is Prescription Drug Abuse?

Prescription drug abuse is when someone takes a medication that was prescribed for someone else or takes their own prescription in a manner or dosage other than what was prescribed. Abuse can include taking a friend's or relative's prescription to get high, to treat pain, or because you think it will help with studying.

What Are the Most Commonly Abused Prescription and Over-the-Counter Drugs?

Opioids (such as the pain relievers OxyContin and Vicodin), central nervous system depressants (e.g., Xanax, Valium), and stimulants (e.g., Concerta, Adderall) are the most commonly abused prescription drugs. Drugs available without a prescription—also known as over-the-counter drugs—can also be abused. DXM (dextromethorphan), the active cough suppressant found in many over-the-counter cough and cold medications, is one example. It is sometimes abused to get high, which requires large doses (more than what is on the package instructions) that can be dangerous.

What Are the Common Street Names?

Prescription drugs have chemical names, brand names you may have heard before, and street names.

Warning Signs

Depressants (including Xanax, Valium, GHB): Contracted pupils; drunk-like; difficulty concentrating; clumsiness; poor judgment; slurred speech; sleepiness. 



Chemical Name (Brand Name)


Street Names
  • Oxycodone (OxyContin, Percodan, Percocet)
  • Propoxyphene (Darvon)
  • Hydrocodone (Vicodin, Lortab, Lorcet)
  • Hydromorphone (Dilaudid)
  • Meperidine (Demerol)
  • Diphenoxylate (Lomotil)
  • Morphine (Kadian, Avinza, MS Contin)
  • Codeine
  • Fentanyl (Duragesic)
  • Methadone



  • Hillbilly heroin
  • oxy
  • OC
  • oxycotton
  • percs
  • happy pills
  • vikes



Chemical Name (Brand Name)

Street Names


  • Mephobarbital (Mebaral)
  • Sodium pentobarbital (Nembutal)




  • Barbs
  • reds
  • red birds
  • phennies
  • tooies
  • yellows
  • yellow jackets


  • Diazepam (Valium)
  • Alprazolam (Xanax)
  • Triazolam (Halcion)
  • Estazolam (ProSom)
  • Clonazepam (Klonopin)
  • Lorazepam (Ativan)
  • Chlordiazepoxide hydrochloride (Librium)



  • Candy
  • downers
  • sleeping pills
  • tranks

Sleep Medications

  • Zolpidem (Ambien)
  • Zaleplon (Sonata)
  • Eszopiclone (Lunesta)



  • A-minus
  • zombie pills



Chemical Name (Brand Name)


Street Names

  • Dextroamphetamine (Dexedrine, Adderall)
  • Methylphenidate (Ritalin, Concerta)



  • Skippy
  • the smart drug
  • Vitamin R
  • bennies
  • black beauties
  • roses
  • hearts
  • speed
  • uppers