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Substance use prevention: prescription drugs

16.9 million Americans (6.2%) age 12 or older misused prescription drugs at least once in 2018 (National Survey on Drug Use and Health 2018)

  • 9.9 million misused prescription pain relievers (opioids)
  • 5.1 million misused prescription stimulants
  • 6.4 million misused prescription tranquilizers/sedatives
  • 4.8% of Hoosiers age 12 years or older and 8.8% of 18- to 25-year-olds misused pain relievers

Commonly misused prescription drugs

Commonly misused prescription drugs fall under three broad categories: opioids (pain medications), depressants (anti-anxiety or sleep medications), and stimulants (ADHD medications). Please visit the DEA's website to learn more and see photos of various prescription medications.

Health risks

Source: (

  • Opioids
    • Drowsiness, confusion, and depression
    • Nausea, vomiting, and constipation
    • Slowed breathing and hypoxia (too little oxygen reaching the brain)
    • Interactions with other medications
    • Use during pregnancy can cause miscarriage, low birth weight, and neonatal abstinence syndrome
    • Overdose can stop a person’s breathing, leading to death
  • Central nervous system depressants
    • Confusion, poor concentration, and slurred speech
    • Headache, light-headedness, and dizziness
    • Slowed breathing
    • Problems with movement and memory
    • Overdose can slow or stop breathing and lead to coma and permanent brain damage
  • Stimulants
    • Dangerously high body temperature
    • Irregular heartbeat, heart failure
    • Seizures
    • Psychosis, anger, paranoia

Parent questions

  • Signs that your teen may be misusing prescription drugs can include changes in their behavior, personality or mood changes, health problems, and changes in their personal appearance. For more information, click here.
  • Medicine storage and disposal