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Most Commonly Abused Prescription Drugs

a person looks ashamed during a therapy session conversation about commonly abused prescription drugs

Every year, physicians prescribe medications that, thanks to the advancements of science, can treat their patients’ diseases, reduce their symptoms, slow the progression of chronic ailments, and improve their quality of life. Most people take these medications as prescribed. Even when patients are responsible with their meds, tolerance can develop, and even addiction. Others begin to misuse their prescriptions to achieve pleasurable but unintended psychotropic effects. About 18 million people improperly use prescription drugs—medications not prescribed to them or in unapproved doses. Prescription drug addiction treatment is the most effective way to stop the misuse of commonly abused prescription drugs and begin recovery.

Fortunately, there are reputable rehab facilities such as Apex Recovery in Nashville, Tennessee, where you can find evidence-based treatment and compassionate support that will help you leave prescription drug addiction behind. If you are worried about yourself or a loved one, want to know more about commonly abused prescription medication, or are ready to start the process of selecting a rehab program, reach out to us today. Our online form is simple and will connect you to a staff member, or you can call us at 615.703.4639.

Who Is at Risk?

Anyone can become addicted to prescription medication. But two groups are statistically at greater risk, and abuse rates are rising in these populations.

At most risk for prescription drug abuse are young people between 18 and 25. Not surprisingly, the unapproved use of prescription medications among teens and young adults is linked to other addictions, primarily to nicotine and alcohol, as well as cocaine. Teens with sports injuries who receive a prescription for an opioid painkiller are at higher risk of addiction, even when there is no history of drug misuse.

The second most vulnerable group is older people between 57 and 85. Two-thirds of those in this age bracket take daily prescriptions, sometimes more than five per day. Unintentional misuse and tolerance are two paths to prescription drug addiction in this age group.

Commonly Abused Prescription Drugs

Just because a prescription drug is safe for patients who use it as prescribed does not mean it cannot be dangerous when used improperly or by the wrong person. Commonly abused medical drugs fall into three categories: central nervous system (CNS) depressants, stimulants, and opioids (synthetic or opium-derived).

Below are the most commonly abused prescription drugs available both through legitimate channels and on the street.

CNS Depressants

This group of commonly abused prescription medications includes barbiturates, benzodiazepines, and sleep medications. Trademarked names for CNS depressants include:

  • Ativan
  • Librium
  • Amytal
  • Seconal
  • Phenobarbital
  • Xanax
  • Ambien
  • Sonata

Signs of CNS depressant intoxication:

  • Sedation
  • Sense of well-being
  • Lowered inhibitions
  • Reduced anxiety
  • Drowsiness

Side Effects:

  • Slurred speech
  • Poor coordination
  • Slurred speech
  • Damage to memory
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Low blood pressure
  • Slowed respiration
  • Death when combined with alcohol


This group of commonly abused drugs includes codeine, morphine, heroin, fentanyl, and oxycodone. Prescription names for these include:

  • Vicodin
  • Methadone
  • Sublimaze
  • OxyContin

Signs of opioid intoxication:

  • Pain relief
  • Euphoria
  • Drowsiness
  • Sedation

Side effects:

  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Poor coordination
  • Confusion
  • Weakness
  • Dry mouth
  • Sweating
  • Slowed breathing
  • Slowed pulse/blood pressure
  • Unconsciousness
  • Coma
  • Death


This group of commonly abused prescription drugs includes amphetamines and methylphenidate, and they can be found in prescriptions named:

  • Dexedrine
  • Adderall
  • Concerta
  • Ritalin
  • Biphetamine

Signs of stimulant intoxication include:

  • Exhilaration
  • Mental clarity and alertness
  • Increased energy

Side effects:

  • Increased heart rate, metabolism, and blood pressure
  • Loss of appetite and weight
  • Insomnia
  • Seizures
  • Heart attack
  • Stroke

These commonly abused drugs, beneficial when used properly, can lead to addiction and overdose when misused.

Get Help with Addiction to Commonly Abused Drugs at Apex Recovery

Our mission is to provide the best possible individual treatment and recovery available. We want to help our clients achieve lasting recovery and provide cutting-edge, evidence-based, and alternative therapies to ensure the best possible outcomes.

To learn more about commonly abused prescription drugs, how to know if you have developed an addiction, and what to do next to achieve health and sobriety, call today. Our number is 615.703.4639—or you can use our online form to connect with one of our compassionate, experienced staff.

Brenna O’Brien, LCSW

Lead Therapist

Brenna is a Nashville native who earned both her undergraduate and master’s degree in Clinical Social Work from The University of Tennessee where she graduated in 2011. She has a thirteen-year background working in the behavioral health field with adults at all levels of care. Brenna started her career working at a local inpatient hospital, followed by a six year career with a residential co-occurring treatment center. Brenna served as the founder and director of the Clinical Consultant team where she developed protocols to assist patients in getting access to care efficiently without sacrificing customer service. As a result of her efforts, she was named the treatment center’s Innovator of the Year in 2018. She loves to be the voice of hope for patients and families in crisis by providing education and clinical direction.
Brenna’s fun-loving and accepting nature has served her well as a clinician treating individuals struggling with complex trauma, anxiety, depression, perfectionism, and co-occurring disorders. Brenna is a certified NARM therapist and co-owner of SHEchiatry, PLLC, a boutique mental health practice for women in Nashville.

During her off time, you can find Brenna thrift shopping alongside her French Bulldog Reau. She also particularly enjoys early mornings with a matcha latte followed by all things local.

Flora Sadri-Azarbayejani, D.O., MPH, FAAFP, FASAM

Medical Director

Flora Sadri-Azarbayejani graduated from Boston University with a degree in biomedical engineering. She would later go on to complete two master’s degrees at Boston University, one in epidemiology and biostatistics and the other in medical science, along with her doctorate in medicine from the University of New England College of Osteopathic Medicine. Dr. Sadri began her career as an epidemiologist in infectious disease for the Massachusetts Department of Public Health. After medical school, she began her career as a family physician at The Community Health Center of Franklin County and then Gardner Family Medicine, a private practice in Gardner, MA. Dr. Sadri made the decision to work with the recovery community as a physician at CleanSlate Centers, then become part of the Promises Behavioral Health leadership team, and then continued her career at PsyclarityHealth.

Dr. Sadri-Azarbayejani is an involved member of medical societies, including the Massachusetts Medical Society, the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP), and the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM)and has a publication in AAFP News detailing how family medicine can lead addiction care efforts.

LinkedIn profile link:

Fred Bowen

Founder & Board Member

Fred was raised in San Clemente, California. Fred was exposed to the drug culture at a very early age. By the time Fred had graduated from high school, his addiction had progressed to a point that most people do not return from. For another decade, he struggled with addiction and recovery with multiple attempts at abstinence. There were periods of homelessness along with periods of high functioning and experiencing success. Fred realized, ultimately, that addiction was always in control. At the age of thirty, on death’s door, Fred had hit rock bottom and had a moment of clarity that would save his life. That clarity was the sea of change in his life.

20 years later, Fred is not able to recognize his past life in comparison to where he is now. Early on, Fred had made the decision that addiction and recovery would be his sole vocation. He started sober living homes and found that working with people that suffered from the same addiction would be his passion. This was the beginning of Apex Recovery.

“I’m extremely proud of the person I have become simply by staying clean and having an open mind in regards to the recovery process.”

Fred’s hope for anyone suffering the way he did is to be able to find a way out of the vicious cycle of addiction. Recovery is a gift that all are entitled to. Apex can be a part of that.

Jennifer Adams

Chief Legal Officer

Jennifer has over 25 years of experience in the healthcare industry. She began her career as a paralegal in the legal department of BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee (BCBST), where she spent 15 years learning the health insurance industry. Jennifer held various positions at BCBST, including paralegal, senior privacy consultant, chief privacy, security and compliance officer for a technology subsidiary, and shared health and senior counsel.

Jennifer then further advanced her healthcare experience by joining the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) for almost 10 years. Jennifer served as the director for payer Relations, where she was responsible for managing all payer relationships across the country for the VA. In her last position, Jennifer was a member of the Senior Executive Service (SES) and served as the executive director for integrated external networks, which was responsible for the development, oversight, and management of the community care network program that provides veterans access to community providers when VA cannot provide the service timely or close to home.

Jennifer joined Apex Recovery in February 2023 as our chief legal officer. Jennifer graduated from Tennessee Wesleyan College with a Bachelor of Science business degree in human resource management, economics, and finance. She also holds a Juris Doctorate degree from the Nashville School of Law.

Branch Atkisson

National Director of Business Development

A passion for helping those in need started with Branch’s own personal experience growing up. This morphed into professional expertise in the areas of outreach and community development.

A true understanding of what treatment resources are available and how to connect those in need with them has allowed him to develop relationships that continue to benefit APEX’s patients. “I love sitting with addicts and their families in moments of crisis and helping them understand there is hope through the process of treatment!”

Shauna Soderquist

Director of Admissions

Shauna Soderquist is the director of admissions at Apex Recovery. With over nine years of industry experience, Shauna is committed to helping those who struggle with addiction and has experience with all facets of the admissions cycle. Her experience includes lead development, account management, building and growing teams, and recruitment and training. She brings a high-level understanding of insurance and financial implications of treatment. Shauna is a high performer who is driven to meet and exceed goals and while her career path has given her exposure to all parts of the treatment and recovery processes, her passion will always be in building and maintaining relationships with clients while helping them admit to treatment.

Shauna resides in Thompson’s Station, TN with her husband, and two children and is an active member of her community. When she is not helping those who struggle with addiction, she enjoys spending time with her family, working out, traveling, and enjoying live music.

Michael Cartwright

Chairman of the Board

There is no end in sight for Michael Cartwright. He has a sincere goal to provide endless resources to those who truly want to release the grip of addiction.

Known as a premiere addiction industry trailblazer, Michael Cartwright is a noted behavioral health entrepreneur. He founded Performance Revolution LLC, also known as Fit-Rx, in 2009 and, from that success, was then able to merge with a company named Forterus with a successful history of treating over 12 million individuals in need of addiction treatment. Another success in the industry was the founding of Foundations Recovery Network.

Soon thereafter, Forterus grew and developed into AAC or American Addiction Centers being led by their chairman of the board, Michael Cartwright.

Michael Cartwright is a pillar in dual diagnosis management and the founder of Foundations Associates. Under his management, the organization grew to include four alcohol and drug treatment facilities nationwide, including the Canyon, the leading recovery facility in Malibu, California. One highlight in Michael’s service career is when he served and testified on the Senate Help Subcommittee on Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services.

Dr. Matthew Bruhin


Dr. Matthew J. Bruhin is the chief executive officer of APEX Recovery. Along with co-founder Fred Bowen, Dr. Bruhin utilized his experience in the creation of high-end rehabs to construct a center that was cutting-edge and affordable yet lacked nothing. His vision, eye for detail, and desire to lead have created an unparalleled vision for treating addictive disorders coupled with mental and emotional concerns. Dr. Bruhin treats every staff member and participant like family and hopes to bring his clinical and administrative vision to many.

Dr. Bruhin is a State of California Board of Behavioral Sciences-licensed marriage and family therapist as well as an addiction specialist registered by the Breining Institute. Dr. Bruhin earned his doctorate in addiction psychology, has a Master of Arts degree in counseling psychology, and holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in psychology with a minor in addictive disorders. Additionally, he holds many other certifications and has tens of thousands of hours of clinical and training experience.

Dr. Bruhin has a diverse clinical training background, working in the mental health field for over 12 years. He specializes in the treatment of addiction and has specialized experience and clinical training in the treatment of prescription addiction, sexual addiction, and gambling addiction. He works with many individuals and families, ranging from those with chronic mental health conditions to high-level professionals, professional athletes, executives, Hollywood film producers, and TV personalities. He has developed his own specialized and effective techniques for the treatment of addiction and chemical dependency.

Dr. Bruhin loves to write and blog and he appears regularly on network TV as a leader in the addiction field. He has worked with clients from A&E’s hit TV show Intervention as well as the Tyra Show. Dr. Bruhin also performs local TV segments in order to get the public educated about addiction and to break down the stigma of mental health issues. Dr. Bruhin balances his passion for work with the love of his family, his enjoyment of travel, and his vintage Star Wars collection, which can be viewed in his private office.