When it comes to taking prescription medication, professionals will tell you that sticking to specific doses on a set schedule is of the utmost importance to avoid accidental drug abuse. But even with labeled pill boxes and extra precautions, improper use and drug abuse among baby boomers is on the rise.

Based on data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, an estimated 4.8 million adults aged 50 and older used an illicit drug -- whether it was an illegal substance or non-medical use of a prescription -- last year. The number of older drug abusers has increased so much in the past decade that the National Institute of Health released its first consumer alert for seniors last month.

However, it's not just illegal substances that are the problem. With the average 50-year-old man taking four prescription drugs per day, the likelihood of addiction to necessary medicines is high.

Check out the gallery below to see the top five most commonly abused prescription drugs among the 50+ set, according to health reports. And yes, marijuana is one of those medications, as it is prescribed in some instances, much to the chagrin of the federal government.

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  • #5 Stimulants

    While stimulants such as <a href="http://www.drugabuse.gov/drugs-abuse/commonly-abused-drugs/commonly-abused-prescription-drugs-chart" target="_hplink">Ritalin and Adderall</a> are highly addictive, abuse among older people is not as widespread as it with young adults. However, illicit stimulants like cocaine are more common. In 2008, <a href="http://oas.samhsa.gov/2k10/DAWN015/IllicitAbuse.htm" target="_hplink">63 percent of 118,495 emergency room visits</a> made by those 50 and older involved cocaine. The number of older cocaine users likely increased in the past few years since more than 550,000 adults aged 50 and older <a href="http://oas.samhsa.gov/2k11/013/WEB_SR_013.htm" target="_hplink">reported cocaine use</a>, according to a 2011 report. (<a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/alexdoddphotography/3196151008/" target="_hplink">Image via Flickr</a>, Alex Dodd)

  • #4 Antidepressants

    While the names are varied -- <a href="http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/mental-health-medications/what-medications-are-used-to-treat-depression.shtml" target="_hplink">Prozac, Zoloft and Lexapro</a>, among others -- the effects are similar. Used primarily to treat depression and mood disorders, antidepressants have a slight potential for abuse and addiction. According to a 2010 report from The Drug Abuse Warning Network, antidepressants contributed to <a href="http://www.samhsa.gov/data/2k10/WebSR018Pharma50+/Pharma50+HTML.pdf" target="_hplink">8.6 percent of emergency room visits</a> by adults 50 and older.

  • #3 Sedatives

    Most often used to treat anxiety and insomnia, <a href="http://www.news-medical.net/health/List-of-Sedatives.aspx" target="_hplink">sedatives like Valium and Xanax</a> may become addictive <a href="http://nihseniorhealth.gov/drugabuse/improperuse/01.html" target="_hplink">if taken incorrectly, or used too often</a>. The Drug Abuse Warning Network identified sedatives, or depressants, as the pharmaceutical involved in <a href="http://www.samhsa.gov/data/2k10/WebSR018Pharma50+/Pharma50+HTML.pdf" target="_hplink">31.8 percent of emergency room visits by older adults</a>. (<a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/deanslife/1359287762/" target="_hplink">Image via Flickr</a>, Dean812)

  • #2 Pain Relievers

    Painkillers like Oxycodone, Vicodin and Morphine have a high potential for abuse. According to a Drug Abuse Warning Network report, <a href="http://www.samhsa.gov/data/2k10/WebSR018Pharma50+/Pharma50+HTML.pdf" target="_hplink">pain relievers were the type of pharmaceutical</a> most often involved in emergency room visits for post-50s, encompassing 43.5 percent of senior ER visits. The vast majority of painkiller-related ER visits -- 33.9 percent -- involved high-level narcotics, rather than over-the-counter pain relievers.

  • #1 Medical Marijuana

    While many people have medical prescriptions for marijuana use, <a href="http://oas.samhsa.gov/2k11/013/WEB_SR_013.htm" target="_hplink">3 million adults aged 50 and older</a> have illegally used the drug within the past year, according to a 2011 report from The National Survey on Drug Use and Health, a branch of the U.S. Government's Department of Health and Human Services. Out of 4.8 million older adults who used illicit drugs, marijuana use was more common than non-medical use of prescription medicines among the 50 to 59 age range (though the opposite was true for those 60 and older). Marijuana is also far more popular among men than women aged 50 and older.

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