When you hear the term commonly abused drugs, your mind may immediately jump to street drugs like heroin and cocaine. And while these are, in fact, among the most widely used drugs, they aren’t the only kinds of drugs that people abuse. In fact, both prescription medications and legal drugs like alcohol are both prone to abuse, and they can all lead to addiction problems.
The most commonly abused drugs include:
The immediate effects of alcohol use include impaired judgment, loss of motor functions, headaches, and vomiting. Prolonged use and alcoholism can lead to liver disease, stroke, heart disease, diabetes, depression, hepatitis, liver disease, anxiety, seizures, and a variety of cancers.
Of the 15 million adults who struggle with alcohol abuse in America, fewer than 7 percent actually seek treatment. An additional 623,000 youths between the ages of 12 and 17 also struggle with alcohol abuse.
Cocaine is a highly addictive street drug that increases your blood pressure, heart rate, and body temperature, meaning cocaine users are at risk of heart attacks, strokes, seizures, and even respiratory failure, all of which can lead to death. Long-term use can cause permanent cardiovascular damage, respiratory problems, damage to the nose or mouth, and organ damage.
Cocaine abusers are more likely to die from a heart attack than anything else. In America, there are about 1.5 million people who use cocaine, and the largest demographic of users are young adults between the ages of 18 and 25.
Some of the common effects of heroin use include heart problems, nausea, confusion, dry mouth, low body temperature, depressed breathing, a slower heart rate, severe constipation, overdose, and death. Plus, because of how addictive heroin is, it often leads to personal, professional, and social breakdowns.
Heroin use has been on the rise over the past three decades, and the increase in use can be partially traced back to the rise in prescription opioid use, which often leads to addiction followed by street drug use. Unfortunately, heroin use also leads to many overdoses, and about 91 people die every day from opioid overdoses.
Over 22 million Americans have used cannabis, making it the most commonly abused illicit drug. The effects of marijuana include mood changes, difficulty thinking and solving problems, memory loss, lack of coordination, and an altered perception of time. The long-term effects of use range from cognitive impairment to memory problems to difficulties learning, as well as respiratory problems and mental health issues.
For many users, marijuana is a gateway drug, leading users to other commonly abused drugs.
Oxycodone is an opioid medication used for pain management. The less severe side effects that come with smaller doses include nausea and vomiting, constipation, drowsiness, sweating, mood changes, loss of appetite, and more. At higher doses or with prolonged use, however, the side effects worsen and include irregular heart rate, swelling and itching, difficulty breathing, seizures, chest pains, and addiction.
Americans are by far the largest consumers of opioids in the world and account for over 81 percent of the world’s oxycodone consumption (including drugs like Percocet, which contains oxycodone). It’s estimated that over 2 million Americans struggle with opioid-related substance abuse, and that includes oxycodone.
Vicodin is a combination drug that’s made from acetaminophen and the opioid hydrocodone. Like oxycodone, lower doses result in side effects like nausea, constipation, dizziness, confusion, and drowsiness, as well as loss of consciousness and impaired judgment. High doses and long-term use can lead to liver problems because of the acetaminophen, as well as the same effects caused by prolonged use of an opioid.
Prescription opioids like Vicodin are prominent among younger adults, who seem to think that it’s less dangerous than illicit drugs. As such, about 10 percent of high school students have tried this drug, and over 20,000 Americans use it recreationally.
Xanax is a benzodiazepine that’s used to treat panic disorders and anxiety in about 1.6 percent of the population. The effects include headaches, fatigue, weight loss or gain, seizures, depression, memory problems, mood changes, and more. Chronic use can further lead to delirium, psychosis, and aggression. It’s also possible to overdose on this drug, and symptoms include slurred speech, weakness, respiratory depression, and even coma.
The most commonly abused drugs include illicit street drugs, prescription medications, and even legal drugs like alcohol. Unfortunately, no matter what class of drug is being abused, the side effects can include addiction, overdose, severe physical and behavioral problems, and even death.