The Most Dangerous Prescription Drugs in the UK

Dangers of Prescription Drugs

As you can imagine, most of the patients we help come to us due to addiction to illegal drugs such as cannabiscocaine or ecstasy.

Despite this, it’s important to remember that legal drugs can be just as dangerous and just as addictive, if not more in some cases.

Prescription drug addiction is far from an issue to shake a stick at, with the Office of National Statistics stating that 4,359 deaths in England and Wales were related to drug poisoning in 2018 alone – not just the highest number ever, but representing the highest annual increase ever too (16% up over 2017).

Many prescription drugs are extremely dangerous, and many are addictive too. When people attempt to self medicate or use medicines in a manner that differs from their GP’s advice, they put themselves at extremely high risk.

Today we’ll be taking you through some of the most dangerous prescription drugs in the UK, as well as discussing why they are so commonly abused and what to do if you or a loved one struggle with prescription drug addiction.

If you are suffering with drug addiction, contact us to see how we can help you. Rehab or detoxing are usually the most recommended action.

First though, let’s start with the basics:

What Are Prescription Drugs?

Prescription drugs are simply medications that aren’t available to be purchased over the counter. Instead, they are only available to patients who have been specifically prescribed them by a doctor.

This can be the case for many reasons, but the most common reasons a drug would be prescription-only as opposed to available over the counter are:

  • Using them incorrectly or too often would cause harm to yourself, reduce their effectiveness, or cause harm to others (in the case of antibiotics)
  • They pose significant risk of long-term addiction (for example with opiods, benzodiazepines and other strong painkillers)

When learning about prescription drug abuse, many people question why prescription drugs are dangerous – the answer is that they aren’t when used correctly and in accordance with doctor’s orders, but can become extremely dangerous when used different.

Why Do People Abuse Prescription Drugs?

There are many reasons why such a situation may arise. For example:

  • Somebody may become addicted to a prescription drug after attempting to wean themselves off an illegal drug with it, for example in the case of heroin and methadone.
  • Somebody who’s addicted to illegal drugs may also switch to prescription drugs after hearing the experience is better, or simply believing they will be safer
  • Patients who attempt to self medicate or use addictive prescription medications for longer than prescribed can rapidly find themselves addicted
  • In recent years, popular music culture has commonly referenced using prescription drugs in recreational contexts, which can glamorise prescription drug abuse and make people curious about recreational drugs go for them as opposed to the more common street drugs.

What Prescription Drugs Are Abused?

When we think about listing the most dangerous prescription drugs, the real question is “what are the most addictive prescription drugs?”, since these are the ones that are the most likely to cause issues (and the most difficult to quit).

The most addictive prescription drugs in the UK are:


Zopiclone is a hypnotic, commonly used to treat anxiety and insomnia. It gives users a strong feeling of warmth, comfort, relaxation and wellbeing, which gives it the potential for addiction.

Patients who have suffered from anxiety and lack of sleep for a long time, may suddenly find themselves completely relaxed and rested after using Zopiclone. This can easily lead to addiction as the thought of stopping taking the drug is associated with a return to the previous issues.

However, Zopiclone addiction is extremely dangerous and can cause hallucinations, confusion, chest pain, and death.


Benzos are minor tranquilizers and sleeping tablets used to treat panic disorder, anxiety, OCD and more. All drugs in the benzo family come with a strong potential for addiction.

Valium and Xanax are also benzodiazepines and are both commonly abused for the feelings of relaxation they produce, but can be extremely damaging with overuse. V

alium is also used to treat alcohol withdrawal, which it is extremely effective for. However, if not monitored properly, this could potentially lead to the patient switching one addiction for another.


Codeine is very commonly prescribed for pain management, and can even be bought over the counter in very small doses. Despite this, codeine is an opiate, which is the same family of drug as heroin.

Codeine can cause similar feelings of relaxation as the drugs above, but can also cause feelings of euphoria with larger doses. Codeine is a poster-child for why prescription drugs can be dangerous, taking too much can cause complete organ failure and cardiac arrest.


Ritalin is a prescription drug that is very similar to speed. It is most commonly used to treat narcolepsy or ADHD, and does so by stimulating the central nervous system and causing a fight or flight response.

It is commonly used by party goers or ravers who use the drug to stay up for days on end. However, since it is not designed for this purpose, doing so can cause dramatic weight loss, internal damage, paranoia, and long term insomnia. 

Treatment for Prescription Drug Addiction

If you or a loved one are suffering from prescription drug addiction, it can be easy to assume you are out of luck in terms of help. Rehab clinics and professional therapists have a reputation for focusing more on alcohol and illegal drug related concerns.

However, for a trustworthy, modern-day rehab clinic, this isn’t the case at all. Prescription drug addiction should be treated as the serious, life-threatening issue it is.

Here at Serenity Centres, we offer the UK’s leading prescription drug treatment centres across our numerous locations.

We offer both inpatient stays, and outpatient treatment plans that allow you to recover in the comfort of your own home. Our patients, whether inpatient or outpatient, have access to:

  • GP consultations and professional medical advice
  • Nurses, therapists and support workers
  • Cognitive behavioural therapy and other techniques
  • Holistic treatments
  • Support groups and advice from people who have overcome prescription drug addiction

And lots more.

We also offer free tours of our rehab centres so you can learn more about our staff, resources and programmes with zero obligation.
To learn more, contact us now on 0800 118 2892 for a friendly chat with one of our experts!

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