Slideshow: Commonly Abused Prescription and OTC Drugs
Loading Next Slideshow
Drug abuse isn't just about illegal drugs like marijuana or cocaine. Legal medicines with legitimate uses can be abused -- meaning they're taken by someone other than the patient or in a manner or dose other than what's recommended. Here you'll find pictures of commonly abused prescription drugs (depressants, pain relievers, and stimulants) and some nonprescription (over-the-counter) drugs. Because drugs come in many forms, not all pills and tablets are shown; drug pictures are not to scale.
Prescribed to ease anxiety or promote sleep, depressants slow the brain's function. Barbiturates are a type of depressant. Phenobarbital is a barbiturate; others are Mebaral, Seconal, and Nembutal. Though helpful when used as prescribed, barbiturates can be addictive. If taken with certain drugs, including alcohol, the heart and breathing can slow, which can lead to death. Slang for barbituates includes "barbs," "reds," red birds," "phennies," "tooies," "yellows," and "yellow jackets."
Benzodiazepines: Valium, Xanax
Valium and Xanax are examples of benzodiazepines, another type of depressant. They may be prescribed to treat anxiety, acute stress reactions, panic attacks, convulsions, and sleep disorders (typically for short-term use). Like other depressants, they have reasonable uses but may be abused. Withdrawal from benzodiazepines "can be problematic" but is rarely life-threatening, notes the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA).
Sleep medicines are depressants. The sleep drugs Ambien, Sonata, and Lunesta are newer sleep medicines called nonbenzodiazepines. These drugs may have less potential for addiction than other depressants.
Codeine and Morphine
Pain relievers are another group of prescription drugs that are commonly abused. They include codeine and morphine. Brands of morphine include Avinza, Kadian, MS Contin, Oramorph, and Roxanol. Morphine is typically prescribed for severe pain; codeine, for milder pain. Street names for codeine include "Captain Cody" and "Cody." Slang for morphine includes "M" and "Miss Emma."
OxyContin, Percocet, Percodan, and Roxicodone share an active ingredient, oxycodone, which is an opioid pain reliever. These drugs aren't identical; Percocet also contains acetaminophen, while Percodan also contains aspirin. These drugs should only be taken under medical supervision. Street names include "oxy," "O.C.," and "oxycotton" for OxyContin and "percs" for Percocet or Percodan.
Vicodin, Lortab, Lorcet
Vicodin, Lortab, and Lorcet contain the opioid hydrocodone plus acetaminophen. Opioids can cause drowsiness, constipation, and may depress breathing, depending upon how much you take. Vicodin's street names include "vike" and "Watson-387." Vicodin, or any other prescription drug, shouldn't be shared; it's only for the patient with the prescription.
Stimulants increase alertness, attention, and energy. They're prescribed for narcolepsy, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and depression that doesn't respond to other treatments. The ADHD drugs Dexedrine and Adderall, are stimulants called amphetamines, which may be abused by people looking for a sense of euphoria. Risks include fast or irregular heartbeat, reduced appetite, heart failure, nervousness, insomnia, and addiction. Nicknames for amphetamines include "bennies," "black beauties," and "speed."
Methylphenidate is a stimulant found in the ADHD drugs Ritalin, Concerta, Metadate, and Methylin. Its nicknames include "MPH," R-ball," "Skippy," "the smart drug," and "vitamin R." Taking high doses of a stimulant can lead to a dangerously high body temperature, an irregular heartbeat, and the potential for cardiovascular failure or lethal seizures.
Dextromethorphan (DXM) is the active ingredient in many nonprescription cough and cold medicines. Those products are safe when taken as recommended, but very large doses can lead to euphoria and impaired judgment -- as well as nausea and vomiting, loss of coordination, and increased heart rate. DXM's street names include "Orange Crush," "Triple Cs," "Dex," "Robo," and "Skittles."
Pseudoephedrine is commonly found in nonprescription cold medicines. It's used as an ingredient for making the illegal drug methamphetamine ("meth"). That's why there are laws limiting the amount of pseudoephedrine-containing drug products that can be bought at a time.
Identifying a Suspicious Pill
Found a random pill and want to know what it is? WebMD's Pill Identification Tool may help. But because there are hundreds of drugs and thousands of pills and tablets of all shapes, colors, and sizes, try taking the pill to a pharmacist to get help identifying it.
Drug Abuse: What to Do
If you suspect that someone you know is abusing drugs, including prescription or over-the-counter medicines, call 800-662-HELP to find a treatment center. If you're a parent who suspects your child is using, try these tips:
Come right out and ask.
Look for signs and symptoms of drug use.
Learn the risk factors for drug use, like a family history of addiction or having friends who drink or use drugs.
IMAGES PROVIDED BY:
(1) Christina Kennedy / DK Stock
(2) First DataBank* and U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration
(3) U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration
(4) U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and First DataBank*
(5) First DataBank* and U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration
(6) U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration
(7) U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration
(8) U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and First DataBank*
(9) U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and Steve Pomberb / WebMD
(10) Brayden Knell / WebMD
(11) U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration
(12) Flashfilm / Digital Vision
(13) Ghislain & Marie David de Lossy / The Image Bank
CONDITIONS OF USE: The information in this database is intended to supplement, not substitute for, the expertise and judgment of healthcare professionals. The information is not intended to cover all possible uses, directions, precautions, drug interactions or adverse effects, nor should it be construed to indicate that use of a particular drug is sage, appropriate or effective for you or anyone else. A healthcare professional should be consulted before taking any drug, changing any diet or commencing or discontinuing any course of treatment.
Drug Enforcement Administration, U.S. Department of Justice: "Pseudoephedrine."
National Institute on Drug Abuse: "Drugs of Abuse and Related Topics," "Chart: Drugs of Abuse and Related Topics," "CNS depressants," "Media Guide: The Basics -- Commonly Abused Drugs," "Prescription and Over-the-Counter Medications."
Partnership for a Drug-Free America: "Commonly Abused Prescription and OTC Medications," "Time to Act!"
THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE.
It is intended for general informational
purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a
substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment and should
not be relied on to make decisions about your health. Never ignore professional
medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the
WebMD Site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call
your doctor or dial 911.