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reviewed 5/19/2019

Rx drug abuse: True or false?

Prescription drugs are generally safe when they're used as the doctor instructed. But they can cause serious problems when they're abused. How much do you know about prescription drug abuse?

True or false: Prescription drugs are more commonly abused than cocaine, meth or heroin.

True. Prescription medications are the third most commonly abused drug category, following marijuana and alcohol. They are abused more often than cocaine, heroin and methamphetamines.

True or false: Prescription drug abuse refers only to painkillers like opioids.

False. Many different types of prescription drugs are abused. The most common include opioids, stimulants and depressants—such as sleep aids and tranquilizers.

True or false: Teens who abuse prescription medications usually get the drugs from a dealer.

False. Most teens get the drugs from friends' and relatives' prescriptions. However, they may take them without the owner's knowledge.

True or false: Boys and girls often abuse the same types of prescription drugs for different reasons.

True. One example: Boys are more likely to abuse prescription stimulants to get high. Girls are more likely to abuse stimulants to stay alert or to lose weight.

True or false: Prescription drugs aren't as dangerous as illegal "street" drugs.

False. Prescription drugs can be addictive and lethal when abused. For example, abuse of opioid painkillers and depressants can lead to fatal overdoses, especially when combined with alcohol. Stimulants can cause paranoia, raise your blood pressure and body temperature, and make your heart beat irregularly.

Are you worried that you or a loved one has a substance abuse problem? Act early to learn more about the signs, health risks and paths to recovery.

Get the facts about drug abuse

Sources: American College of Emergency Physicians; National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence; National Institute on Drug Abuse

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