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Prescriptions, Opioids, and Fake Pills



Prescription drug misuse is when someone takes a medication the wrong way.

  • Taking too much, or too often, or too long.
  • Using it for something it wasn’t prescribed for ― the feeling it gives you, to relieve tension, sleep, or be alert or study.
  • Taking a medication that wasn’t prescribed to you ― getting it from a family member or friend.
  • Taking it in a way other than directed (such as crushing pills).
  • Taking it with alcohol or other drugs.

Common prescriptions ― which can be misused and/or lead to addiction ― include:

  • Pain relievers ― such as opioids
  • Stimulants ― such as ADHD (attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder) medication
  • Sedatives and Tranquilizers ― for anxiety or sleep

For pain, know your options. Ask your doctor:

  • Are you recommending a medication?
    • If so, is it an opioid?
    • What other options do I have (non-opioid medications, physical therapy, alternative therapies, self-care, or high-tech treatments)?
  • How do I safely stop taking my medication? 
  • What should I expect of the medication (will it decrease pain, rather than eliminate pain)?
  • What should I do if my pain treatment isn’t working?


Opioid overdose is life-threatening. Overdose can happen, even with a prescription opioid. Naloxone can reverse an opioid overdose.

Learn about opioid overdose (how to prevent it, how to recognize it, how to treat it) and how to use naloxone.

Fake Pills

Criminal drug networks are mass-producing fake prescription pills (PDF | 5.6 MB) ― and marketing them as the real thing. They’re often sold on mainstream social media sites and websites. So they’re available to anyone ― including kids.

Many fake pills look just like real medications, such as:

  • Oxycodone (Oxycontin®, Percocet®)
  • Hydrocodone (Vicodin®)
  • Alprazolam (Xanax®)
  • Stimulants like amphetamines (Adderall®)

Fake pills often contain fentanyl ― and can be deadly:

  • DEA lab tests found that 6 out of every 10 pills with fentanyl contain a potentially lethal dose of fentanyl. A lethal dose of fentanyl (2 milligrams) – is equal in size to about 10-15 grains of table salt.
  • Animal tranquilizers (even more potent than fentanyl) have also been found in fake prescription pills and illicit drugs.

Your medications should:

  • Come from a licensed, accredited medical professional.
  • Be prescribed to you ― not to someone else.
  • Be dispensed by a licensed pharmacist at a pharmacy.


Individuals and Families

Parents and Caregivers


Community Members and Practitioners

Addiction Treatment

 Prescription Stimulant Misuse Among Youth and Young Adults PDF Cover


Prescription Stimulant Misuse Among Youth and Young Adults

This advisory reviews the evidence on prescription stimulant misuse among youth and young adults.

Information for Pregnant People with Substance Use Disorders PDF Cover

Information for Pregnant People with Substance Use Disorders

This document contains information for pregnant people with a SUDs and preparing to deliver.

Store Outro

Find more resources on prescription and over-the-counter drugs (and opioids) on the SAMHSA Store.

Need Help?

For mental or substance use disorders, call SAMHSA’s National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357) or TTY: 1-800-487-4889, or text your zip code to 435748 (HELP4U), or use the to get help.

Last Updated
Last Updated: 06/06/2023
Last Updated