Commonly Misused and Abused Drugs

The Most Commonly Misused and Abused Drugs as reported by the National Surveillance Agency Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN).

Nearly all drugs that are abused produce a desirable effect such as altering the state of the mind and filling a void in a person’s life. Some professionals believe a person who has a low threshold for frustration, a fear of failure, and a feeling of inadequacy are more prone to abuse drugs.

Those who abuse drugs do so because they are:

  • Bored,
  • Pressured by their peers,
  • Seeking pleasure,
  • Affluent and want to experiment,
  • Seeking to escape from reality,
  • Feeling inadequate,
  • Feeling ashamed and depressed,
  • Seeking relief from conflicts.

Commonly Misused and Abused Drugs

DrugDescription
XanthinesA class of drugs that include caffeine and are used in coffee, tea, chocolate, and colas. These drugs affect the central nervous system (CNS). Most frequently abused drug.
NicotineUsed in tobacco products. This drug affects the central nervous system (CNS). One of the most frequently misused and abused drugs.
Ethyl alcoholUsed in distilled spirits and beverages. This drug affects the central nervous system (CNS). One of the most frequently misused and abused.
AnticholinergicsA class of drugs that includes Robinal, which is referred to as the “date rape” drug. This drug affects the central nervous system (CNS).
SteroidsA performance enhancing drug that affects the central nervous system.
AmphetaminesA class of drugs that includes dextroamphetamine, “dexies,” and methamphetamine (commonly referred to as “speed” and “crystal meth”). This drug affects the central nervous system (CNS).
PentazocineCreates a morphine-like effect. Also known as Talwin. This drug affects the central nervous system (CNS).
L-dopaUsed to alleviate some of the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. This drug causes an alteration in feelings, thoughts, and perceptions.
CocaineA leading drug resulting in visits to the emergency department.
This drug can cause tachycardia (fast heart rate), increased blood
pressure, chills, fever, agitation, nervousness, confusion, inability
to remain still, nausea, vomiting, abdominal
HeroinA leading drug resulting in visits to the emergency department.
Heroin is a pro-drug and is converted in the liver to morphine with
the same side effects.
MorphineA leading drug resulting in visits to the emergency department. Morphine is an opioid narcotic analgesic. Side effects include sedation, decreased blood pressure, increased sweating, flushed face, constipation, dizziness, drowsiness, nausea and vomiting.
AcetaminophenCommonly known as Tylenol. A leading drug resulting in visits to the emergency department. This medication is commonly used in overdoses and can cause serious kidney problems and death.
AspirinA leading drug resulting in visits to the emergency department. Aspirin abuse can cause gastric (stomach) irritation which can lead to ulcers and subsequent gastric hemorrhage (bleeding).
AlprazolamKnown as Xanax, is an antianxiety and antipanic agent. Several of the side effects include episodes of violent and aggressive behavior, seizures, delirium, and other withdrawal reactions.
Marijuana/hashishThese are cannabis drugs that seem to act as a CNS depressant. The effects are mental relaxation and euphoria and decreased inhibitions.
DiazepamCommonly known as Valium it is used for short-term relief of anxiety symptoms. Side effects include drowsiness, fatigue, and ataxia (muscular incoordination). Overdose can result in somnolence (sleepiness), confusion, diminished reflexes, and coma.
IbuprofenThis is a commonly used nonsteroidal anti inflammatory drug. Side effects and overdose can result in gastrointestinal bleeding or a metabolic acidosis.
PCP/PCP combinationsPCP is a hallucinogenic drug that can cause violent and aggressive behavior.
LorazepamCommonly known as Ativan. This causes an alteration in thoughts, feelings, and perceptions.
BenzodiazepinesThis medication can cause an alteration in thoughts, feelings,and perceptions.
ClonazepamCommonly known as Klonopin. This medication is used to
inhibit seizure activity. Side effects can be mild drowsiness,
ataxia, behavioral disturbances that are manifested as aggression,
irritability, and agitation.
d-propoxypheneCommonly known as Darvon. This is an opioid analgesic that can cause an alteration in sensory perception which includes euphoria, dizziness, drowsiness, hypotension, nausea, and vomiting.

The drug creates an altered state of consciousness.There are four characteristics that describe drugs that are frequently abused.

  • Prolonged use of the drug creates a tolerance for the drug.
  • The desirable effect is quick.
  • Withdrawal symptoms develop if the drug is stopped after prolonged use.
  • Administering the drug is a fast way to treat withdrawal symptoms.

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