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The addictive prescription drugs most commonly abused

Britons are thought to spend an estimated £500 million a year on painkillers. In 2012 alone there were 807 fatal overdoses involving prescription drugs, compared to 718 deaths from heroin and cocaine overdoses. Port of Call looks at some of the most abused substances on the prescription drugs list, and how to find drug rehab, should you need help with your own addiction.

Recreational usage of prescription drugs is not common but is growing in popularity. In 2008, four percent of Britons said they had used prescription drugs recreationally. According to the Guardian’s British Drugs Survey 2014 that figure has now increased to six percent but is as high as nine percent in the South West, Wales, London and the South East.

Prescription Drugs list

The following is a list of prescription drugs that are commonly abused in the UK.


Codeine is an opiate commonly prescribed by doctors for the treatment of pain. It is possible to buy certain tablet forms of this drug in the UK without a prescription but higher strength codeine is legally controlled and it is against the law to possess it without a prescription from a doctor. When abused, users are at high risk of addiction. It can also damage internal organs and, in some cases, trigger cardiac arrest. A codeine overdose can lead to death. If you’re looking for help with a codeine addiction, our advice on this subject may help you.


Morphine is legally controlled in the UK as a class ‘A’ drug. Another opiate drug, Morphine addiction can take hold extremely quickly and therefore needs to be carefully controlled. It causes pleasant side effects, including sensations of deep relaxation and feelings of extreme well-being, but can lead to severe withdrawal symptoms when stopping.


Ritalin is most commonly used for the treatment of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy. Similar to amphetamine, it works by stimulating the central nervous system, allowing users to stay awake for long periods. Ritalin abuse can lead to weight loss, paranoia, insomnia and damage to body organs.


Diazepam is a sedative. It can be used to treat anxiety, alcohol withdrawals and seizures. Abuse of this substance can produce a groggy feeling similar to being drunk. Mixing Diazepam with alcohol can increase the dangers further still. Mental problems can arise from abuse including memory loss but it can also lead to coma and, eventually, death.


Xanax (also known as Alprazolam) also belongs to the benzodiazepine family of drugs. This sedative is prescribed to treat anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder, panic disorder and occasionally insomnia. Again, it produces feelings of deep relaxation but is easy to become addicted to and can lead to physical and mental health problems.


Adderall is a form of amphetamine that is used to treat ADHD. It is much stronger than Ritalin and therefore the risk of addiction is higher. It can produce a feeling of being ‘wide awake and full of energy’ which has fuelled reports of students abusing the drug to study harder for exams. The consequences of an Adderall addiction can be very serious and could even lead to death.

If you are worried about your own or someone else’s use of prescription drugs contact Port of Call today to learn about how drug addiction can be treated through our network of addiction specialists. Our experienced team can help you find a rehabilitation centre near you, and will support your journey to recovery.

About the author: Alex Molyneux

Alex is our admissions team leader. Over the last 5 years he has spoken with more than 10,000 people via our helpline and has organised over 1,000 detox and rehabilitation placements.

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