A series of pills laid out on the table

The drug overdose crisis in the United States claimed the lives of over 70,000 people in 2017. While illicit drugs such as heroin get most of the attention, the reality is that prescription drugs have played a major role in the crisis.

For example, over 17,000 of those deaths involved a prescription opioid- which is a higher number than heroin alone. (1) To make matters worse, these numbers do not reflect the other addictive pharmaceutical drugs.

Here we go over the most addictive pharmaceutical drug classes.

Prescription Opioids

Examples – Oxycontin, Roxicet, Dilaudid, Vicodin, Percocet, morphine

Prescription opioids are the most addictive and unfortunately fatal pharmaceutical drugs Multiple addictive medicationsprescribed currently. Prescription opioids are used for moderate to severe pain.

While in the past these drugs were reserved for health conditions such as cancer or surgery, in recent years they have been increasingly used for treatment of all types of pain. (2)

This proliferation in their prescription has often been cited as a major factor in starting the Opioid Epidemic. (3)

Prescription Stimulants

Examples – Adderall, Ritalin, Concerta, Dexedrine

Prescription stimulants are medications that are commonly prescribed for attention-deficit related disorders. The effects of prescription stimulants mirror that of illicit drugs such as cocaine and methamphetamine.

Prescription stimulants are both physically and physiologically addictive substances. It is also possible to overdose on prescription stimulants, which usually leads to life-threatening conditions such as heart attack or seizure. (4)


Examples – Fiorina, Pentothal, Seconal, Nembutal

Barbiturates are prescription sedative drugs that are commonly prescribed for sleep, anxiety relief, muscle spasms, and seizure prevention. Barbiturates carry such a high potential for addiction and accidental overdose that they are not prescribed nearly as much in decades past.

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Tolerance to barbiturates occurs rapidly, making their potential for overdose quite high. (5)


Examples – Valium, Xanax, Ativan, Klonopin

Benzodiazepines are prescription medications that are commonly prescribed for anxiety and insomnia related disorders. Benzodiazepines have the ability to cause addiction both physically and physiologically, and can lead to a potentially fatal withdrawal. Benzodiazepines are also incredibly dangerous when coupled with other central nervous system depressants, such as opioids or alcohol.

For example, it was found that more than 30% of opioid overdoses also involved a benzodiazepine of some kind. (6)

Final Note

This article is intended for those considering a new way of life, free of the pain of drug and alcohol addiction. For more information on recovery and anyone seeking help with addiction and substance abuse problems, please call True Recovery at (844) 744-8783 or visit us online.


  1. https://www.drugabuse.gov/related-topics/trends-statistics/overdose-death-rates
  2. https://www.cdc.gov/drugoverdose/opioids/prescribed.html
  3. https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/drugs-opioid-oxycontin-drug-addiction-patent-new-drug-richard-sackler-a8529711.html
  4. https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/prescription-stimulants
  5. https://www.dea.gov/factsheets/barbiturates
  6. https://www.drugabuse.gov/drugs-abuse/opioids/benzodiazepines-opioids