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Prescription drug abuse is defined as the intentional use of medication without a prescription, in a way other than prescribed, or for the experience or feeling it causes. The National Institute of Drug Abuse states that the most commonly abused classes of prescription drugs include opioid pain relievers (Vicodin and Oxycontin), stimulants for treating AHDH, and central nervous system depressants for anxiety relief (Xanax and Valium).

Prescription drugs can be abused in several ways including: taking a higher quantity than prescribed, taking them in another manner than prescribed, taking someone else’s prescription, or taking it for another purpose than prescribed. According to results from the 2013 NSDUH report, 12.5% of new illegal drug users began with prescription pain relievers.

Research now suggests that abuse of prescription opioid medications may open the door to heroin abuse because they can have similar effects. According to, “Nearly half of young people who inject heroin surveyed reported abusing prescription opioids before starting heroin.”