If a type of medication is legally required to be prescribed by a medical professional and cannot be purchased over-the-counter, this is known as a prescription drug. These tight controls and regulations reflect the fact that these medications are potentially addictive and can be dangerous if an incorrect dosage is consumed or if it is used for the wrong reasons. [1]

As a result, purchasing or otherwise obtaining prescription drugs without a valid medical prescription can be dangerous. In many cases, the medication may be counterfeit and the individual may unaware of what they are actually consuming, an illegal practice that can be life-threatening.

What are some common prescription drugs available?


There are many prescription drugs available to treat a wide range of ailments, from physical pain to insomnia and depression. These medicines are extremely powerful and potentially addictive, and as a result, they are carefully managed and dispensed under the guidance of medical professionals.

It can be extremely dangerous to take prescription drugs that have not been prescribed to you. The dosage has not been designed for your specific body and requirement, and if you are purchasing them from the internet or a street dealer then there is a high chance that the medication is a dangerous counterfeit.

Common prescription drugs include:


Antidepressants are commonly prescribed to treat the symptoms of depression and can also be effective at treating anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder. They have the ability to induce the brain to release additional serotonin and other natural chemicals which are thought to improve our mood.

Although antidepressants can be highly effective at treating the symptoms of depression, they do not address the root cause so are often taken in conjunction with regular therapy appointments.


A form of sedative, benzodiazepines have the ability to slow down our body and brain functions and are often prescribed to people who are struggling with anxiety. They do this by working together with gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), a natural chemical produced by the brain.

GABA reduces activity in specific parts of the brain which causes us to relax and slow down, and benzodiazepines work to increase the effects of this natural chemical.

These prescription drugs are commonly prescribed on a short-term or one-off basis and are not generally recommended for long-term use.


Opioids are often prescribed to people who are dealing with long or short-term pain which can include recovering from an operation, struggling with chronic back or knee problems or dealing with the aftermath of a serious accident.

They have the ability to prevent the brain from receiving pain messages, so while the pain is still physically present the patient will no longer be able to feel it.

Opioids have the potential to be highly addictive, particularly when used on a long-term basis, and as a result, the use of this medication should be extremely regulated and managed by a medical professional.

Sleeping pills

If you have ever suffered from insomnia, you’ll know just how frustrating and debilitating this sleep disorder can be. Insomnia is a condition in which the individual has difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep and/or frequently wakes up too early. This can lead to extreme tiredness and fatigue, preventing them from functioning effectively throughout the day.

As a result, sleeping pills may be prescribed in order to force their brain to shut down and allow them to sleep. They can also have a relaxing effect which is one of the main reasons why some people take them even when they do not suffer from insomnia.

ADHD medication

Attention-deficit disorder (ADHD) can be extremely detrimental to an individual’s daily life, and many people with this disorder rely on stimulant-based prescription drugs in order to manage their symptoms. This medication is not a cure for ADHD – rather, it can help them to focus and retain information more effectively.

ADHD medication is frequently abused by people who do not suffer from this disorder, as many people believe that using stimulants will allow them to work harder and achieve more with their time. As a result, the rates of stimulant addiction are rising rapidly across the UK.

What are fake prescription drugs?

prescription drugs

When medication is sold as a specific prescription drug but has not been made to the legal specifications and is not subject to regulations, this is a fake or counterfeit prescription drug.

These drugs may contain completely different ingredients than what is claimed, an incorrect dosage of the actual medication or be contaminated with other substances. They can be up to ten times stronger than the authentic drug, increasing the risk of addiction or overdose.

Many people are tempted by these counterfeit versions as they can often be purchased online or via a street dealer, meaning that they do not have to visit a doctor and be subject to the legal controls and regulations.

Fake prescription drugs can be just as addictive, or even more so, than legitimate prescription medication and come with a host of potential dangers. [2]

What are the dangers of fake prescription drugs?


The dangers that come with taking unregulated, counterfeit prescription drugs cannot be overstated. There is little to no knowledge of the true dosage and active ingredients, and the medication is likely produced in an environment with extremely low safety and hygiene standards.

As a result the risk of an adverse reaction, potential overdose or spiral into addiction are far greater than if the medication was prescribed to you.

Some of the most immediate dangers of fake prescription drugs include:

Increased chance of addiction

When a type of medication is explicitly prescribed to an individual, the doctor has taken many factors into accounts such as their height, weight, general health and any other medications that they are currently taking. This allows them to prescribe a specific dosage that can be closely monitored to reduce the chances of the patient becoming addicted to the medication.

If an individual purchases medication over the internet or from a street dealer, these factors are not considered and as a result, they could potentially be obtaining a dosage that is far too high. They may also be unknowingly consuming a substance that is more addictive than they intend.

Combined with the fact that they are likely able to purchase as much medication as they desire, these factors could result in an addiction that quickly spirals out of control.

Higher risk of overdose

Many counterfeit prescription medications are produced in illegal, unlicensed labs with little to no safety regulations or controls. As a result, many are incorrectly labelled or laced with dangerous substances and can potentially contain lethal doses of medication.

This leads to a far greater chance of overdosing, as the individual has little to no knowledge of exactly which substances they are consuming and how much medication they contain.

Many counterfeit prescription drugs are laced with fentanyl or methamphetamine which can be highly dangerous, and it is not uncommon for people to suffer fatal overdoses when they consume unlicensed and counterfeit prescription drugs. [3]

How can you spot a fake prescription drug?

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These days, producers of counterfeit prescription medication have become more advanced and sophisticated in their methods. It can be almost impossible to spot whether a drug is counterfeit or genuine, and as a result, it is recommended that you only consume prescription medication that has been prescribed to you by your doctor.

Some ways that you can spot and avoid fake prescription drugs include:

Examining the medication and packaging closely

If you are suspicious of certain prescription medication, make sure to examine it closely and check the lot number, external packaging and blister packet. If the packaging suddenly changes between prescriptions, this can be another sign that the medication is not genuine.

However, this method is not a reliable way to guarantee the authenticity of any prescription drug, as many counterfeit medication producers go to great lengths to ensure that the packaging and medication itself appear to be legitimate.

Asking your doctor to verify the medication

Your local doctor or pharmacist should be able to examine the medication and verify its authenticity. If you have any doubts about whether your prescription drugs are genuine, speak to them and even get a second opinion if you are still unsure.

If you suffer any adverse effects from the medication, make sure to let your doctor know immediately. This is also the case if your condition worsens or does not noticeably improve while you are taking the medication.

Avoiding purchasing prescription medication over the internet

Most importantly, you should only ever consume prescription drugs that have been explicitly prescribed to you by a genuine medical professional. When you purchase medication over the internet or from a street dealer, you have no way of knowing whether the drugs are genuine or counterfeit.

Remember that prescription drugs are prescribed for a reason. If you see a special offer or sale on prescription medication on the internet, this is more often than not a sign that the medication is counterfeit and should be avoided at all costs.


[1] https://teens.drugabuse.gov/drug-facts/prescription-drugs

[2] https://www.health-ni.gov.uk/articles/counterfeit-medicines

[3] https://www.dea.gov/sites/default/files/2021-05/Counterfeit%20Pills%20fact%20SHEET-5-13-21-FINAL.pdf