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What Drugs Are The Most Dangerous?
While all drugs can be dangerous, especially illegal drugs or drugs that are used without a prescription, some are more dangerous than others. Drug-related deaths are on the rise across the United States, and every year tens of thousands of Americans die from drug-related causes. Some drugs can be deadly after a single dose, while others cause death only after extended use. Here are the drugs.
1. Nicotine (Tobacco)
Nicotine is an extremely lethal substance according to the Centers for Disease Control and the most dangerous drug. It is responsible for costing the United States billions of dollars yearly and over 480,000 deaths in recent years. Despite these findings, smoking cigarettes “is the leading preventable cause of death.” Tobacco destroys the body’s vital organs, most commonly the lungs and throat. It is highly addictive and sought out for its ability to produce relaxation. Another dangerous component of tobacco is its ability to cause secondhand smoke. Individuals who do not smoke but live with a smoker risk lung-related illness and death through smoke.
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Smoking cigarettes, “causes 90% of all lung cancer deaths,” claiming the lives of women more than men. Furthermore, individuals who smoke tobacco products worsen their risk of death by stroke, coronary heart disease, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) if combined with alcohol and/or other harmful chemicals. Tobacco remains legal and has become popular with young users who use e-cigarettes. Tobacco users will note the difficulty in quitting cold turkey, and often times, nicotine patches and other methods are necessary to quit.
Alcohol is a commonly abused substance sought out for its ability to lower inhibitions. Presently, it is responsible for 88,000 US deaths annually. Alcohol is a depressant and can alter moods when individuals are under the influence and craving alcohol. Side effects of alcohol use can range from slurred speech, to blacking out, and more severe symptoms, like liver disease and comas. Sometimes it can be hard to detect if someone is enjoying alcohol responsibly or struggles with an alcohol use disorder.
Alcohol abuse can occur in drinking stages: social, moderate, binge drinking, and heavy drinking. Heavy drinking is typically considered the most dangerous state. At this point, someone has developed a dependence and will endure painful withdrawal symptoms upon stopping. Additionally, individuals drinking alcohol can deepen their affinity for alcohol over time, risking health-related problems and relationship issues. Heavy and long-term alcohol use can contribute to brain damage, kidney and liver damage, financial loss, poor memory, cancer, higher risk of assault, irritability, alcohol withdrawal, and Delirium Tremens. If alcohol is combined with Cocaine or Benzodiazepines, someone could risk a fatal overdose.
The CDC reported the troubling statistics of the extremely addictive Opioid, Fentanyl, which is both a synthetic and prescription Opioid. This drug is a powerful pain reliever, with 50 to 100 times the potency of Morphine and 50 times the potency of Heroin. A reported 18,335 Fentanyl-related deaths occurred in 2016, equaling 28.8% of deaths due to drug abuse. Fentanyl is highly addictive, and quitting cold turkey is often unsuccessful without treatment.
Fentanyl is a powerful Opioid once used in hospitals as a prescribed medication. The chemical has been used to treat moderate to severe pain and has been used as an anesthetic in the 1930s. It can be inhaled through the nose in spray form to relieve pain and in tablet form under the tongue to assist cancer patients. Despite its medical use, Fentanyl has taken many forms and has been synthetically manufactured. The end result is a dangerous analgesic that can be injected, snorted, swallowed, or blotted on paper. Fentanyl is even more lethal when combined with other street drugs like Cocaine, Methamphetamines, or Heroin.
Heroin is another highly addictive synthetic Opioid, popular for its fast-acting properties. The Morphine derivative originates from poppy seeds like other Opioids. Heroin is commonly available in white powder form, but other types of Heroin (black tar Heroin) are brown in color. Street names for Heroin include Big H, Black Tar, Hell Dust, Smack and Thunder.
The CDC notes Heroin killed 4,454 in 2011, increasing to 15,961 deaths by 2016. Unfortunately, Heroin continues to be a leading killer of individuals struggling with substance abuse disorders, as some combine it with substances like Cocaine, Methamphetamines, and Fentanyl. The addictive substance can be snorted, smoked, or injected and affects the mind by producing intense euphoric sensations. Because of Heroin’s euphoric rush, addiction is easy. Quitting is extremely difficult, and withdrawal symptoms such as cravings and heavy extremities can cause some to continue Heroin abuse. Those battling overdose symptoms can experience bluish lips, shallow breathing, convulsions and coma.
Cocaine is a stimulant that has gained popularity in the US since the 1970s. The white powdery substance is still popular today, killing 5,070 individuals in 2011; 5,319 individuals in 2013; 7,324 individuals in 2015, and 11,316 individuals in 2016. The increase of Cocaine use has garnered much attention as the drug has seemed to make a comeback in recent years. Similar to Heroin, Cocaine releases a large amount of dopamine in the brain, triggering a feeling of euphoria upon use. Cocaine abuse can cause cardiac arrest, convulsions, stroke, and death. Individuals who have used Cocaine have experienced feelings of paranoia, excitability, extreme weight loss, anxiety, and depression.
Cocaine is highly damaging to body the mind and body of the user. Euphoric feelings it produces can create an emotional dependency for those battling depression and stress. It can create a high that can make someone temporarily forget difficulties and feel invincible. Once, those sensations disappear, the person is left wanting more and higher amounts, creating a pattern.
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Methadone is a Schedule II synthetic Narcotic. It was first used during World War II to treat pain because of a Morphine shortage. Presently, the medication is used to treat Opioid-related addictions, such as Heroin. Nevertheless, Methadone continues to be monitored by healthcare professionals, and patients using Methadone may use it in rehab to combat Heroin substance use disorders, but may risk becoming addicted.
The chemical is available in tablet, liquid, or injection form and has sedative effects on the body and mind. According to the CDC, Methadone caused 4,545 deaths in 2011, decreasing to 3,700 in 2013, to 3,376 in 2015, and finally to 3,493 in 2016. Its ability to cause dependence, withdrawal, and addiction are causes for concern. The most common symptoms of Methadone abuse aside cravings include sweating, itchiness, or feeling drowsy. Advanced use of Methadone can lead to constricted pupils, high blood pressure, and loss of consciousness.
Oxycodone as gained notoriety recently. Oxycodone is the active ingredient in both OxyContin and Percocet, and OxyContin remains one of the most commonly abused prescription medications. Oxycodone contributed to the deaths of 5,587 as one of the leading causes of drug-related deaths in 2011. In the same year, doctors wrote 32 million prescriptions for Percocet.
By 2016, the amount of deaths from Oxycodone increased to 6,199, following behind Fentanyl, Heroin, Cocaine and Methamphetamine deaths. Percocet and OxyContin continue to be glamorized in popular culture for their ability to temporarily create feelings of happiness, reduce anxiety, and cause relaxation.
Morphine is a schedule II synthetic Narcotic derived from the Opium plant. It is a Narcotic that has a high risk of abuse and has been used in hospitals to aid in pain relief. Morphine can be snorted, injected, or smoked. It is commonly abused for its euphoric effects on the mind and body, causing drowsiness and reduced anxiety levels.
In 2011, there were 3,290 Morphine-related deaths, and by 2016, there were 5,014 Morphine-related deaths. Withdrawal symptoms like depression and nausea can make it difficult to stop, and when Morphine is combined with other substances, it can increase the risk of a fatal overdose.
9. Methamphetamines (Meth)
Methamphetamine, or Meth, classified as a Stimulant, has fluctuated in popularity. It has a distinct crystal-shape form and an extremely high rate of addiction. The CDC cites a Methamphetamine overdose of 1,887 individuals in 2011, increasing to 3,747 overdoses in 2014, and escalating to 6,762 in 2016. Additionally, nearly 21% of Meth-related deaths included Heroin use.
Meth abuse causes noticeable physical characteristics that can be permanent. Some of these include rapid weight loss, elated moods, and extreme dental decay. Meth use results in dopamine in the brain with a high that can span a few days. Furthermore, Meth is widely available, and can be made from toxic everyday items found in someone’s household. Much of America’s Meth supply is imported or illegally manufactured in labs, with highly flammable chemicals. Individuals abusing Meth can expect to feel an increased heart rate, alertness, agitation, skin infections, and risk fatally overdosing.
10. Xanax (Alprazolam)
Closing out the list of the 10 most dangerous drugs is Xanax, or Alprazolam, a Benzodiazepine that helps treat anxiety. Anxiety can contribute to an inability to be relaxed and in some cases, substance use disorders. An estimated 20% of individuals with anxiety struggle with a substance use disorder. Deaths by Alprazolam were at 4,237 in 2014, rising to 6,209 in 2016. Additionally, some Xanax deaths included Fentanyl (28.3%), Heroin (26.9%) and Oxycodone (25.3%). The majority of deaths by Xanax were unintentional; however, some individuals have used Xanax to assist in suicidal actions.
Some of the most common side effects some feel with taking Alprazolam range from confusion, decreased heart rate and comas. When individuals combine Alprazolam when substances like Heroin, Methadone, or alcohol, there is a greater risk of a fatal overdose.
Take Control Today of Your Struggle with the Most Dangerous Drugs
The top 10 most dangerous drugs are a big problem plaguing Americans. Often times, individuals battling substance abuse may not have the support of compassionate friends and family to get off the drugs. Attempting to detox at home, or enduring withdrawal often yield difficult outcomes. If you or a loved one needs help stopping substance abuse, there is hope. Contact a dedicated and knowledgeable treatment provider to discover treatment options, access 12-Step groups, nutritional plans and one-on-one care. You owe it to yourself to thrive. Contact a treatment provider today, and take back control of your life.