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Stimulants, Depressants, Opioids Causing Addiction


According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, addiction to prescription drugs is on the rise because of the availability of drugs, and increased use in the medical field. The three major classes of prescription drugs that cause addictions include stimulants, central nervous system depressants, and opioids. Continued use or abuse of these drugs causes physical dependence that leads to addiction. Withdrawal after prolonged use is usually painful and can have severe consequences such as seizures and death. Everyone must take prescription drugs as directed by medical practitioners to avoid the progression of their use to addiction.

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According to the World Health Organization (WHO), about 2,500 young people abuse prescription drugs daily while more than 15 million people abuse prescription drugs in the United States alone (Lowrance, 2013). Nearly every person in the world has used a prescription drug at one time in their life. These drugs are prescribed to treat some form of ailment or pain that a patient is suffering from. However, some people go as far as using drugs to gain personal pleasure by using them in the wrong way. Abuse of prescription drugs accounts for more than 38% of all deaths that occur in the United States due to overdosing (Lowrance, 2013). If prescription drugs can cause death in such high numbers, then people need to learn about the detrimental effects of their abuse. To lower the high number of deaths, it important for people to understand the effects of addiction to prescription drugs. The three most common prescription drugs that people get addicted to include opioids, stimulants, and central nervous system depressants.


Opioids are some of the most addictive prescription drugs with between 26.4 million and 36 million abusers, and account for the highest number of deaths due to overdose.


  1. Opiate painkillers are usually prescribed to patients for legal purposes that include medical relief and psychiatric relief.
  2. Addiction to opioids arises from different sources. For instance, some people get addicted to continued use due to a medical condition while others get addicted due to continued use for psychiatric relief (Lowrance, 2013).
  3. In 2012, the number of people in the U.S. that were addicted to Opioid pain killers was estimated to be approximately 2.1 million (Lowrance, 2013).
  4. Addictions arise due to greater acceptance of the use of opioids for various medical purposes, increased prescriptions by medical practitioners, and pervasive marketing by pharmaceutical companies.
  5. Opioids such as Oxytocin and Vicodin attach to specific proteins in the brain and reduce the perception of pain thus producing a sense of well-being.

Short-term effects

  • drowsiness
  • slow breathing
  • constipation
  • indifference to pain
  • relaxation.

Long-term effects

  • addiction
  • respiratory failure
  • painful withdrawal.


In addition to opioids, another group of prescription drugs that is addictive is the central nervous system depressants.

Central nervous system depressants/tranquilizers

  1. They have a calming and relaxing effect that is the major cause of addiction. They slow brain activity and therefore, enable individuals to fall asleep easily.
  2. CNS depressants are usually grouped into two classes namely barbiturates and benzodiazepines (Colvin, 2002). This classification is based on their chemistry and pharmacology.
  3. Their mode of action involves altering neurotransmitter gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) to slow brain activity (Lowrance, 2013). They produce a calming effect by increasing the activity of GABA.
  4. Continued use leads to addiction problems especially when individuals fail to use them in the prescribed manner.

Short-term effects

  • poor coordination
  • drowsiness
  • nausea
  • slow brain function

Long-term effects

  • tolerance,
  • addictions
  • painful withdrawal
  • seizures
  • death


The final type of prescription drugs whose continued use and abuse leads to addiction is classified as stimulants.


  1. Drugs in this category increase brain activity and a result of heightening alertness and energy. Also, they increase blood pressure, respiration, and heart rate (Colvin, 2002).
  2. They are prescribed to treat health conditions such as ADHD, depression, and narcolepsy. Their medical use has waned significantly after studies revealed their addictive nature.
  3. Stimulants such as dextroamphetamine and methylphenidate enhance the activity of norepinephrine and dopamine in the brain thus creating a feeling of euphoria that is addictive (Colvin, 2002).
  4. Withdrawal due to discontinued sue leads to fatigue, depression, and irregular sleep patterns.

Short-term effects

  • alertness
  • focus
  • sleeplessness
  • increased blood pressure
  • increased heart rate
  • high body temperature.

Long-term effects

  • psychosis,
  • hostility,
  • aggressiveness
  • paranoia
  • extreme weight change
  • long-term insomnia.



With the foregoing discussion of the various types of prescription drugs that cause addiction, everyone needs to follow the direction provided by medical practitioners about the use of prescription drugs.

Following the directions of physicians ensures that the use of prescription drugs does not lead to physical dependence that is harmful to health and overall wellbeing. With the increasing rates of prescription drug addictions, everyone must understand

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Colvin, R. (2002). Prescription Drug Addiction: The Hidden Epidemic: A Guide to Coping and Understanding. New York, NY: Addicus Books.

Lowrance, J. M. (2013). Prescribed Drug Dependency versus Addiction: The Dilemma with Prescription Medications. New York, NY: James M. Lowrance.

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StudyCorgi. (2020) 'Stimulants, Depressants, Opioids Causing Addiction'. 22 December.

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