When looking at a list of the most dangerous drugs in the US, it is important to specify what “dangerous” means. A danger ranking that is is simply taken from death and hospitalization statistics will look very different from one based on lethal dosage or even the likelihood of an overdose.
What are the Most Dangerous Drugs?
It’s a good idea to understand as many different danger factors as possible when it comes to drugs. This list considers substances which have a high potency as well as a high likelihood of causing (or contributing to) death.
Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is around 50 to 100 times more potent than Morphine. It is a prescription drug for patients dealing with severe pain, such as cancer or post-surgery pain. Given its high potency, it does not take much fentanyl to trigger an overdose. Illicitly-produced fentanyl poses a serious public health risk, as it’s common to find fentanyl laced with other drugs. Drug dealers and producers will combine fentanyl with substances like cocaine in an effort to boost profit – as it takes less product to create an intense high.
Another form of fentanyl making an appearance in North America is carfentanil. Typically used as an Elephant tranquilizer, carfentanil is likely one of the most dangerous opioids known to man. 10,000 times as potent as morphine and 100 times stronger than regular fentanyl, it has no approved medical uses or human applications. It is oftentimes too powerful to risk lacing in other drugs and therefore is less common than fentanyl. The lethal dose of carfentanil is unknown; however, fentanyl can be lethal at the 2 milligram range.
Opioids in general have passed automobile accidents in the U.S. as the single largest cause of death.
When looking at death count alone, alcohol is one of the most dangerous drugs in the world. However, it is not alcohol’s potency which presents the biggest risk factor. Most people can enjoy alcoholic beverages in moderation without experiencing any serious negative side effects. Rather, it is the increase in likelihood to engage in dangerous activities, and the difficulty in understanding the body’s physical limit that makes it so dangerous. In the United States alone, drunk driving claims around 10,000 lives every year and that figure has fallen by a third in the past few decades. As a whole, an estimated 88,000 Americans die from alcohol-related causes every year – making it one of the most dangerous drugs in the United States, and potentially the world.
Heroin is also a form of opioid similar to fentanyl, but much more prevalent in the United States and Canada. It is one of the driving forces behind the opioid crisis in the U.S. Heroin is an incredibly addictive substance which can be injected, inhaled or even mixed with crack cocaine to form a speedball. It is also one of the hardest drugs to quit, as it can cause painful withdrawals. Heroin is the only substance on this list which is listed as a schedule 1 substance by the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA). A schedule 1 drug is one which has a very high potential for abuse and has no known medical uses.
Methamphetamine, or meth, is an amphetamine type originally used as a nasal decongestant. Some doctors still prescribe it to their patients, though at a dose much too low to create a euphoric high. However, it is more potent than other amphetamines and therefore poses a higher risk to anyone who uses it. It is listed as a Schedule II drug by the DEA because it is given to patients who suffer from severe ADHD, but still has a high potential for abuse.
#5 Cigarette Smoking
Smoking causes long term health effects which can lead to a whole host of other health problems. Cigarettes rank lower than other drugs since nicotine and other cigarette ingredients do not cause reckless behavior and aren’t inherently dangerous on their own. However, from a deaths-per-year perspective, smoking is the leading cause of preventable death in the United States. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that cigarettes cause more than 480,000 deaths in the U.S every year. Smoking can cause long-term health effects such as cancer and other diseases, and it does harm to essentially every organ in the body. It also causes premature death in most regular smokers.
Smoking can cause:
- Heart disease
- Lung diseases
- Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
- Erectile dysfunction
Most Dangerous Drugs: What to Do During an Overdose
Being able to understand the signs of an overdose can help save lives. Any drug can be dangerous, and overdoses are always a possibility. Some individuals may accidentally take more than their prescribed dose of a medication, which in turn can cause an overdose.
Some signs of an overdose include:
- Slowed breathing
- Rapid heart beat
- Cessation of breathing
- Chest pain
- Dilated pupils
- Airway obstruction (gurgling sounds)
If you have opioids in your household, or suspect someone to be experiencing an opioid overdose, using Naloxone (brand name Narcan) can help stop the overdose dead in its tracks. However, keep in mind that this will only stop overdoses caused by opioids. The first step should always be to contact emergency services, even if you are not entirely sure someone is experiencing an overdose. Seconds count when someone is unconscious or struggling to breathe.
Getting Help for the Most Dangerous Drugs
Addiction can be a very difficult thing to beat. Every substance listed above has a high potential for abuse and addiction. However, sobriety is very much possible and there is always hope. If you or a loved one is struggling with drug addiction or abuse, please contact us today so that we we can help begin the journey to a sober life, together.