Pills that have a slightly smaller amount of an active ingredient are said to be less potent than those that contain a bigger boost of activity. It’s an important concept to understand, in terms of addiction, as those who take very potent drugs might be at a higher risk of damage due to drug use when compared to those who do not.

Coffee drinkers understand the concept of potency all too well. When they’re drinking decaffeinated coffee, they know that they’re taking in a beverage that has just a little less kick than a drink made with fully caffeinated beans. Decaf coffee is less potent.


Common Prescription Medication Classes

When discussing prescription medication abuse, most experts focus on painkillers. These drugs contain opioids, or synthetic versions of the ingredient found in heroin, and they can be remarkably addictive. Potency can vary dramatically from pill type to pill type too, and those that are more potent tend to be more expensive and valuable than those that are weak. The drug Vicodin, for example, has five mg of active ingredient included, while the drug Zohydro contains 10 to 50 mg of active ingredient. It’s no wonder that this particular drug is an object of intense desire among street addicts, as it is so powerful.

Benzodiazepine medications may not pack the same sedating punch as painkillers, but they’re still attractive to addicted people as they can produce sedation and euphoria. The drug Klonopin as a potency of 0.5 to one mg, which is a seemingly low dose when compared to Xanax’s one to two mg capacity, but both drugs might be taken by the handful by people who are addicted.

Stimulants are also often attractive to addicted people, as they can speed up the brain and deliver a sense of power and strength. Ritalin, with a potency of five to 10 mg seems like a somewhat weak drug, when compared to Adderall’s 20 to 30 mg capacity. But Ritalin is also easier to get, so it might be a little more attainable.

Using This Information

As mentioned, potency isn’t always directly associated with addiction. After all, people can get around a low potency level by:

  • Taking bigger doses
  • Adding in other drugs
  • Snorting the drugs
  • Inhaling the drugs

But potency can play a big role in the dangers associated with an addiction. After all, people who are taking very strong pills on a regular basis are much more likely to take doses that are incompatible with a healthy life. For example, experts suggest that just two Zohydro pills could cause an overdose in an otherwise healthy person. It might take a handful of Vicodin to bring about the same issue.

Some studies, including one published in the American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse, didn’t find a connection between drug potency and overdose. But it’s easy to understand why taking a powerful pill might be considered just a little bit more dangerous. There are more active ingredients involved, and more damage to the brain might result, and that might make very strong addictions or deaths due to addiction all the more likely.

No matter the potency of the drugs you’re taking, if you’re abusing prescription medications, you need to stop. We can help. At Black Bear Lodge, we offer a comprehensive treatment program for both addiction and mental illness. We can help you break your reliance on prescription drugs, and we can work to give you your life back. Please call, and our admissions coordinators can tell you more.