The CDC, according to the White House’s website, classifies prescription drug abuse as an epidemic. Many young people who get involved with drugs start with prescription drugs, as they frequently view them as safer than illegal ones because they’re prescribed by doctors. So, which often-abused prescription medicines are the biggest troublemakers?
Below is a list of 17 abused prescription drugs as listed by CDC, FDA, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), and nongovernment nonprofit sources on public websites.
This year’s list includes Soma (carisoprodol), given its reclassification last year by DEA to a Schedule IV controlled substance. Soma and a second product, Klonopin / Rivotril (clonazepam) were included among “commonly abused controlled pharmaceuticals” cited in a September 2012 agency presentation “Drug Trends, Long Island, NY,” by Joseph Rannazzisi, deputy assistant administrator of DEA’s office of diversion control.1
Because sales figures were not available, several other drugs cited in the DEA presentation were not placed on the list; these include Demerol (meperidine HCl), Halcion (triazolam), midazolam (sold under the names Dormicum, Hypnovel, and Versed), and Restoril (temazepam). Another drug cited by DEA was propoxyphene (sold as Darvon and Darvocet), which maker Xanodyne Pharmaceuticals agreed to withdraw from the market in 2010 at FDA’s request, and thus is not on the list.
Vicodin, however, remains on the list despite the absence of 2012 sales data, given both its wide use and abuse as a pain drug, and its classification as a hydrocodone combination product. Last month, FDA announced its support for reclassification of hydrocodone combination products like Vicodin from DEA Schedule III to Schedule II, the stricter standard now covering oxycodone products like OxyContin. DEA is expected to make a final decision next year. Officials have reason for concern: CDC data published in February showed hydrocodone and other opioid analgesics were involved in about three of every four pharmaceutical overdose deaths (16,651 of 22,134). They accounted for about 60% of the 38,329 U.S. drug overdose deaths in 2010—the 11th consecutive annual increase.