Top 5 Most Abused Prescription Drugs in Massachusetts

  • Written by:

    Bedrock Recovery Center

  • Dr. Langdon M.D.
    Medically reviewed by:

    Kimberly Langdon M.D.

Most Abused Prescription Drugs in Massachusetts

We’re all aware of the effect of illegal drugs on the state. However, there’s another villain hiding under the surface in Massachusetts. Prescription drug abuse is getting more and more common.

To learn more about this crisis, keep reading. Below are the five most abused prescription drugs in Massachusetts. If you or a loved one is abusing them, it’s best to get prescription drug treatment.


Opioids are very powerful drugs used to treat pain. They are related to chemicals produced by the poppy plant. On top of relieving physical pain, they have a relaxing and sedative effect.

Opioids are very addictive. The body gets used to the drug, so people have to keep taking more to get the same effects. This can lead to physical dependence. If someone stops taking the drug suddenly, they have withdrawals. This can even lead to death.

On the other hand, when people keep taking more and more, they risk overdose. An opioid overdose can be life-threatening. Massachusetts in 2017, saw 321 people die from prescription opioid overdoses.

There are a lot of prescription opioids. All of them have the potential for abuse. These are some of the more common ones:

  • Oxycodone (OxyContin and Percocet)
  • Hydrocodone (Vicodin)
  • Codeine
  • Morphine
  • Fentanyl


These drugs act on the nervous system and have a wide range of effects. As a result, doctors use them to treat many things.

For example, they’re given for migraines, seizures, and sleep problems. Barbiturates also help with anxiety. They have a calming effect. This makes them popular for abuse.

Unfortunately, it’s very easy to become dependent on these drugs. The body builds up a tolerance, so people have to up the dose. This leads to withdrawal if they stop taking it.

People can also overdose on barbiturates. There is no antidote for this, so they’re very dangerous. In fact, doctors have mostly stopped prescribing barbiturates for this reason. Instead, they’ve been replaced by benzodiazepines.

Still, these drugs are out there. You might hear the scientific names phenobarbital or amytal, or their street names, barbs or yellow jackets.


Benzodiazepine, or “benzo”, abuse is becoming more common. In 2017, 38% of overdoses in Massachusetts involved benzos. These drugs are similar to barbiturates. They have a relaxing effect and treat things like anxiety. They also help with insomnia and seizures. The following are some of the most often abused:

  • Alprazolam (Xanax)
  • Diazepam (Valium)
  • Lorazepam (Ativan)

An overdose on benzos is dangerous. While it’s possible to overdose on them alone, more often people mix them with other drugs. The combination is then more dangerous than each drug alone.

Sleeping Pills

Sleeping pills are usually easy to get. Also, people often think they can’t get addicted. Unfortunately, this isn’t true.

If someone takes sleeping pills for a long time, they can become dependent. The risk for dependence is also higher if they take more than prescribed. Dependence may give someone cravings for the pills. Plus, they might not be able to quit taking them, even if they want to.

The most common sleeping pills abused are zolpidem (Ambien) and eszopiclone (Lunesta).


Unlike the other four drugs on this list, stimulants don’t relax you. Rather, they give you energy. They usually treat ADHD because they help you focus. Sometimes they’re used for narcolepsy, a disorder where people have trouble staying awake.

Adderall and Ritalin are the two main stimulants people abuse. People use them so they can concentrate for long periods. This could be for studying or sports.

When people abuse these drugs, they usually take more than they should. This increases the chance of side effects like high blood pressure and fast heart rate. Taking too much can even cause an overdose.

Abuse also increases the chance of addiction. People can become dependent on these drugs and have withdrawals if they stop taking them. Withdrawal symptoms include cravings, depression and a lack of motivation.

Get Treatment for Prescription Drug Abuse in Massachusetts

If you’re worried that you or someone you love has a problem with prescription drugs, it’s best to seek professional advice. At Bedrock Recovery Center, our experts can review your situation and help you decide what you need.

That may include outpatient or inpatient care along with effective methods like Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) and group therapy. Call us today to learn about your treatment options.


  1. Data Brief: Opioid-Related Overdose Deaths Among Massachusetts Residents
  2. Massachusetts opioid summary
  3. Opioid withdrawal