The Most Dangerous Drugs

Learn which drugs are the most harmful and hardest to quit.

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Any drug that creates a chemical imbalance in a person’s body or causes euphoric effects can be dangerous. Many drugs will interact with the the brain and body to release certain feel-good chemicals such as endorphins, dopamine and serotonin. By releasing these chemicals, the drug provides a pleasurable feeling but can result in the body needing the drug to maintain the necessary chemical balance. That forms a physical dependence on the substance in addition to the psychological one created when the brain associates the euphoric high and positive feeling to the use of the drug. Most dangerous drugs can affect the body and mind in this way.

However, some drugs are more addictive — and thus, more dangerous — than others. Each person is unique and their bodies might respond differently than other people’s bodies respond to varying drugs and doses. However, there are certain substances that have a high rate of addiction and regularly result in overdose deaths.

What Are the Worst Drugs?

Many of the most dangerous drugs in the world are also illegal, but some prescription medications can be extremely harmful when misused. The worst drugs someone can use range from stimulants that cause a spike in energy to depressants that bring the body into a tranquil state. Many drugs classified as an opioid, both illegal ones and prescription medications, are included in the list of the worst drugs.

Each year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) releases the number of overdose deaths caused in the United States by each drug. In 2014, the top 10 worst drugs in terms of overdose deaths were:

These 10 are not the only dangerous drugs, though. Many dangerous prescription and illicit drugs are easily accessible and everyone should be aware of them both for their own safety and that of their loved ones.

Dangerous Legal Drugs

Some substances are available for medical use, often as a prescription from a doctor. These drugs can be used to treat for a mental health disorder such as anxiety or depression or to manage chronic physical pain as a result of old age or a serious injury. While these drugs can be beneficial for people, many of them can become dangerous when misused.

The most dangerous legal drugs include pain-relief opioids, which in 2016 accounted for around 32,000 overdose deaths. Pain relievers such as oxycodone, hydrocodone, morphine and fentanyl are extremely addictive and each substance results in thousands of overdose deaths per year. In 2013, oxycodone and morphine had the third- and fourth-highest overdose numbers, respectively, in the country. Methadone, a pain-relief medication that also is used to treat for opioid addiction, caused 20,217 overdose deaths between 2010 and 2014. That number is higher than that of hydrocodone or morphine and just a few thousand deaths lower than oxycodone.

Benzodiazepines, which are mostly used to treat for anxiety, also can be dangerous legal drugs. This class of prescription drugs resulted in close to 10,700 overdose deaths in 2017. The most common benzos are:

These drugs have a high risk of misuse because they can be acquired by a medical prescription. Anyone who suffers from a mental health disorder or chronic pain should discuss dosage and prescription length with their doctor. Managing the use of the prescription is extremely important in reducing the risk of a dependence forming.

Even though legal drugs are dangerous due to their availability, there are many illicit substances that are widely used and easily accessible. Being able to identify the most dangerous illegal drugs and recognizing their prevalence can help people protect themselves and their loved ones from addiction.

Worst Illegal Drugs

In 2014, heroin and cocaine were the drugs with the highest number of overdose deaths. That trend continued for the next few years, with the CDC reporting that heroin accounting for 15,958 overdose deaths in 2017 and cocaine use causing 14,556 deaths that same year. Those two drugs are considered the worst illegal drugs in the U.S.

Methamphetamine is another of the most dangerous illegal drugs. In 2015, nearly 5 million people in the country sought treatment for meth addiction. Some of the most popular illegal drugs include:

Some drugs are usually more addictive than others, though.

Hardest Drugs to Quit

Drugs such as cocaine, heroin and meth are extremely dangerous to use because people who become dependent on them will suffer from withdrawal symptoms. These uncomfortable effects can deter people from entering recovery and many will continue to use a substance just to avoid the withdrawal symptoms. Prescription medications such as Codeine, OxyContin, Valium and Xanax are also on the list of the hardest drugs to quit for the same reasons: how easily people can become addicted to them and how intense the withdrawal symptoms can be when someone attempts to stop taking the substances.

The drugs that are used by the most people are often the hardest ones for people to quit. According to the 2016 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, more people used marijuana in the last year than any other drug. A total of 36,570 people reported using cannabis. Cocaine was the next most used illicit substance , with 5,071 people reported using the substance within the previous year. Around 11,500 people reported that they had misused a pain-relief psychotherapeutic drug within the previous year. Around 6,000 people reported that they had misused a tranquilizer medication and around 5,650 people said they misused a stimulant prescription drug such as Adderall. Around 11,800 people said they misused an opioid pain reliever or used heroin within the previous year.

If you or someone you know struggles with an addiction to an illicit or prescription drug, help is available. The most dangerous drugs claim thousands of lives each year, and from year to year the annual number of overdose deaths continues to rise. Rehabilitation centers, such as The Recovery Village, have the staff and resources available to help people who are struggling with a substance use disorder. Many people die each year from illicit and prescription drug use, but many others have also successfully remove drug use from their lives. Call The Recovery Village to speak with a knowledgeable representative on which treatment plan is the best fit for you or your loved one.

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