Commonly Abused Painkillers

This article takes a look at commonly abused painkillers. Painkiller abuse has become very common in teens. Learn more about the most commonly abused painkillers, how they are taken, and some of the common street names of painkillers often abused.

Painkillers are one of the favorite drugs for young people to abuse, and painkiller abuse can affect anyone, so family members and friends should be aware of painkillers that teens and adults may be abusing.

The abuse of prescription drugs has risen sharply in recent years, and prescription drug abuse is now the second most common type of illegal drug use, after marijuana abuse. Painkillers are the most abused prescription drug. About 1 in 5 young people have abused painkillers, and around 2.5 million people begin abusing painkillers each year.

The most commonly abused painkiller varies by region, depending on what is easily available. Hydrocodone, sold as Vicodin, Lortab, and Lorcet is one of the most commonly abused painkillers. Oxycodone, sold under names such as OxyContin, is another very commonly abused painkiller. It is meant to be long lasting, but is often crushed to get all of the drug at once, which can lead to a fatal overdose.

While these two painkillers are the most common, people may abuse any of a number of painkillers that are easy for them to get. Painkillers may take many forms. Most of them come as pills, but painkiller addicts may modify them for use, and they may be available as pills, powders, liquids, or suppositories.


Opium is the common source for many painkillers. Opium comes from the opium poppy and was used historically as a painkiller and medicinal drug called laudanum. Because opium was often addictive and commonly abused, new drugs were made to replace opium. Some of these drugs are still derived from opium, while others are synthetic opioids, or man-made versions of opium. Opium is still abused by people who are addicted to painkillers, and is either smoked or ingested. Its street names include:

  • Paregoric
  • Big O
  • Black stuff
  • Block
  • Gum
  • Hop


Codeine is a painkiller derived from opium. It is injected or ingested. Some medicines that contain codeine include:

  • Empirin with Codeine
  • Fiorinal with Codeine
  • Robitussin A-C
  • Tylenol with Codeine

Codeine has many street names. Some of them are:

  • Captain Cody
  • Cody
  • Schoolboy
  • Doors & fours
  • Loads
  • Pancakes and syrup


Morphine is another painkiller made from opium. It is often injected, ingested, or smoked. Some of its brand names are Roxanol and Duramorph.

A few of morphine’s street names are:

  • M
  • Miss Emma
  • Monkey
  • White stuff


Hydrocodone is a synthetic opioid often used with acetaminophen (Tylenol). Its brand names are:

  • Vicodin
  • Lortab
  • Lorcet


Oxycodone is another synthetic opioid. It is often crushed and snorted. Oxycodone is sold under the brand names:

  • Tylox
  • OxyContin
  • Percodan
  • Percocet

Some of its street names include:

  • Oxy 80s
  • Oxycotton
  • Oxycet
  • Hillbilly heroin
  • Percs


Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid sold as brands like Actiq and Duragesic. It is injected, smoked, or snorted. Fentanyl has many street names, such as:

  • Apache
  • China girl
  • China white
  • Dance fever
  • Friend
  • Goodfella
  • Jackpot
  • Murder 8
  • TNT

Other painkillers

There are many other painkillers on the market that people might abuse. These painkillers may be swallowed, injected, chewed, snorted, or taken as a suppository. Demerol, known as demmies or pain killer, and Dilaudid, called juice or dillies, are two examples of other painkillers that are commonly abused.


National Institute on Drug Abuse, "Prescription Drug Abuse Chart" [online]
Parents: The AntiDrug, "Painkillers" [online]
SAMHSA, "The NSDUH Report: Patterns and Trends in Nonmedical Prescription Pain Reliever Use: 2002 to 2005" [online]
SAMHSA Family Guide, "A Prescription for Danger - Use of Painkillers on the Rise" [online]

Related Article: Prescription Drug Statistics >>