RX Drug Dependence

Prescription drugs that are abused or used for nonmedical reasons can alter brain activity and lead to dependence. Commonly abused classes of prescription drugs include opioids (often prescribed to treat pain), central nervous system depressants (often prescribed to treat anxiety and sleep disorders), and stimulants (prescribed to treat narcolepsy, ADHD, and obesity).

Commonly used opioids include oxycodone (OxyContin), propoxyphene (Darvon), hydrocodone (Vicodin), hydromorphone (Dilaudid), meperidine (Demerol), and diphenoxylate (Lomotil). Common central nervous system depressants include barbiturates such as pentobarbital sodium (Nembutal), and benzodiazepines such as diazepam (Valium) and alprazolam (Xanax). Stimulants include dextroamphetamine (Dexedrine) and methylphenidate (Ritalin).

In 2006, 16.2 million Americans age 12 and older had taken a prescription pain reliever, tranquilizer, stimulant, or sedative for nonmedical purposes at least once in the year prior to being surveyed. Source: National Survey on Drug Use and Health; http://www.samhsa.gov/. The NIDA-funded 2007 Monitoring the Future Study showed that 2.7% of 8th graders, 7.2% of 10th graders, and 9.6% of 12th graders had abused Vicodin and 1.8% of 8th graders, 3.9% of 10th graders, and 5.2% of 12th graders had abused OxyContin for nonmedical purposes at least once in the year prior to being surveyed. Source: Monitoring the Future http://www.monitoringthefuture.org/.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) states that scientific research demonstrates that addiction is a disease that affects both brain and behavior. Many of the biological and environmental factors have been identified and NIDA is beginning to search for the genetic variations that contribute to the development and progression of the disease. Using this knowledge scientists are beginning to develop effective prevention and treatment approaches that reduce the toll drug abuse takes on individuals, families, and communities. (From Dr. Nora D.  Volkow, MD, Director NIDA)

Drug User Brain Activity image

"Drug addiction is a brain disease that can be treated."
Nora D. Volkow, M.D.
National Institute on Drug Abuse

Despite these advances, many people today do not understand why individuals become addicted to drugs or how drugs change the brain to foster compulsive drug abuse.
The resources will try to fill that knowledge gap. For more information please visit


Contact Information

Blackwood Medical Center 856-227-2104—phone
141 S Black Horse Pike 856-227-2896—fax
Suite 103
Blackwood, NJ 08012  

Prescription Drug Dependence

Long-term use of opioids or central nervous system depressants can lead to physical dependence and addiction. Taken in high doses, stimulants can lead to compulsive use, paranoia, dangerously high body temperatures, and irregular heartbeat.

What is drug addiction?

Addiction is defined as a chronic, relapsing brain disease that is characterized by compulsive drug seeking and use, despite harmful consequences. It is considered a brain disease because drugs change the brain - they change its structure and how it works. These brain changes can be long lasting, and can lead to the harmful behaviors seen in people who abuse drugs.

Most commonly abused classes of prescription drugs:

Opioids, such as OxyContin and Vicodin, which are most often prescribed to treat pain; Central nervous system (CNS) depressants, such as Valium and Xanax, which are used to treat anxiety and sleep disorders; and Stimulants, which are prescribed to treat certain sleep disorders and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and include drugs such as Ritalin and Adderall.


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