The Top 15 Most Dangerous Drugs
Drug overdoses have been the leading cause of accidental death in the United States. In fact, more Americans die of drug overdoses than in car accidents each year. In light of these staggering statistics, 24/7 Wall St. conducted a study that reviewed and categorized 25 of the most dangerous drugs and drug mixtures. Researchers took into account side effects and death rates tracked by the federal government, as well as potential risk of drug combinations measured by medical information organizations and web sources such as MedScape, WebMD, and the American Medical Association.
The substances on this list span well-known prescription medications, infamous street drugs, and lethal combinations of both. Many of these drugs are generally considered to be safe when taken on their own and under the correct conditions. However, all drugs can be fatal when too much is taken or combined inappropriately with other substances. If you or someone you know is abusing any type of drug, get in touch with a treatment provider here for information on finding help.
Here are the top 15:
1. Acetaminophen (Tylenol)
Common names for Acetaminophen include Tylenol, Mapap, and Feverall. This drug is regularly used for pain relief and is considered to be the most dangerous on this list due its potential to cause liver damage and toxicity. Acetaminophen is the nation’s leading cause of acute liver failure, according to data from an ongoing study funded by the National Institutes for Health. Analysis of national mortality files shows about 450 deaths occur each year from Acetaminophen-associated overdoses; 100 of these are unintentional. Analysis of national databases also show that Acetaminophen-related overdoses account for about 50,000 emergency room visits and 25,000 hospitalizations yearly.
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Alcohol includes all types of beer, wine, and malt liquor. Alcohol ranks second on this list due to the extensive health problems and injuries associated with use. An estimated 88,000 people die from alcohol-related causes annually. In addition to causing health issues such as cancer, liver damage, hypertension, heart disease, and fetal damage, alcohol abuse increases the risk of injuries, suicide, violence, and motor accidents. Due to these factors, excessive alcohol consumption is the third-leading preventable cause of death in the United States. In fact, alcohol withdrawal itself can be deadly; a variety treatment options exist, however.
Benzodiazepines, sometimes called “Benzos,” are anti-anxiety medications that include Xanax, Valium, and Klonopin. Benzodiazepine drugs rank high on this list due to the high prescription rate and increased risk of deadly respiratory depression that occurs when taking the medications. The risk of experiencing negative side effects is significantly heightened when combined with other drugs, particularly Barbiturates, Opioids, and alcohol. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, “In 2019, 16 percent of overdose deaths involving Opioids also involved benzodiazepines.” Quitting Benzodiazepines “cold turkey” is not recommended; seizures and even death can occur.
Common anticoagulants include Warfarin, Xarelto, and Heparin. These medicines are used to prevent blood clots in patients that are deemed at-risk for clotting. Anticoagulants rank fourth on this list due to the serious health conditions that can result from use, such as strokes, transient ischemic attacks (TIAs), heart attacks, deep vein thrombosis (DVT), and pulmonary embolism. When combined with Aspirin and other blood-thinning drugs, anticoagulants can also cause fatal internal and/or external bleeding.
Common Antidepressants include Cymbalta, Wellbutrin, Prozac, and Zoloft. Antidepressant drugs are commonly used to treat major depression and mood disorders; they’re also prescribed for attention deficient hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), and anxiety disorders. These drugs are high on this list due to the adverse health effects long-term use can have on consumers; withdrawal after long-term use can be incredibly uncomfortable (though many treatment options exist). Those taking Antidepressants have a 33% higher risk of dying prematurely than people who are not taking the drugs.
Anti-hypertensives are a class of drugs that are used to treat hypertension (high blood pressure), such as Hytrin, Cardura, and Minipress. These drugs have been linked to cardiovascular issues, acute renal failure, prostate cancer, and new-onset diabetes in consumers – all of which can result in death. When combined with NSAIDs or diuretics, the possibility of experiencing these health risks is amplified and can lead to fatality.
Bromocriptine, also known as Parlodel, is used to treat symptoms of Parkinson’s disease and hyperprolactinemia (high levels of a natural substance called prolactin in the body) including lack of menstrual periods, milky discharge from the nipples, infertility, and hypogonadism. Bromocriptine ranks seventh on this list due to the potential severe health side effects that can occur in patients, such as lethal circulatory collapse. Systematic hypotension has also been documented in about 33% of people taking the medication. Additionally, the drug has been associated with somnolence, and episodes of sudden sleep onset, which has resulted in dangerous encounters and motor vehicle accidents.
Clarithromycin, also known as Biaxin, is an antibiotic used to treat certain bacterial infections such as pneumonia and bronchitis. The FDA is currently advising caution before prescribing Clarithromycin due the increased risk of fatal heart complications that can occur years later. In fact, consumers are at a 27% increased risk for cardiovascular death if they have taken Clarithromycin at some point in their lives. It is unclear why this medication causes such effects, but the risk of experiencing them is amplified when the drug is combined with calcium channel blockers, such as Lipitor.
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Clozapine is an antipsychotic medication used to treat schizophrenia. It can also lower the risk of suicidal behavior in patients with schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder. Clozapine breaks the top 10 in this list due to the negative cardiovascular effects that can occur, including myocarditis and cardiomyopathy. The risk of experiencing these effects is significantly increased when combined with other central nervous system depressants, such as alcohol. Clozapine has also been documented as causing gastrointestinal hypomotility or “slow gut,” which can result in severe constipation, bowel obstruction, and even death.
Cocaine, also known as “Blow,” “Coke,” and “Crack,” is a strong Stimulant that is used as a recreational drug. Cocaine comes in at number 10 on this list due to the long-term health risks that can occur from use, including heart disease, hypertension, organ failure, respiratory distress, stroke, unhealthy weight loss, and seizures. According to the CDC, Cocaine deaths have been rising in recent years and show no sign of slowing down. Almost 20% of the overdose deaths that occurred in 2019 were linked to Cocaine. Quitting Cocaine can result in depression; various therapies and support groups can help with treatment and long-term recovery.
Colchicine is a medication used to treat and prevent gout attacks, as well as some other inflammatory conditions. Colchicine is considered a high-risk medicine by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) due to its ability to cause significant toxicity and death. The drug has a very narrow therapeutic index, which means that the range between therapeutic and toxic doses is small, and is some cases it can overlap. Fatal overdose has been documented as resulting from as little a dose as 0.5 mg/kg. The risk of overdose is significantly increased when the drug is combined with strong CYP3A4 inhibitors – a mixture that usually results in death.
12. Cough Medicines
Common cough medicines include NyQuil, Robitussin, and Theraflu. These medications are used to relieve cough caused by the common cold, bronchitis, and other breathing illnesses. Cough medicines come in at number 12 on this list due to the high risk of abuse and multiple adverse effects that can occur in consumers. The main ingredient in cough medicines is dextromethorphan (DXM) which can create intoxication, hallucinations, and dissociation in large doses. Overdose can occur when too much is taken and result in severe sedation and fatal respiratory depression. These medicines are often misused in combination with other drugs, such as alcohol and Marijuana, which can additionally increase the risk of deadly overdose.
Digoxin, also known as Lanoxin, is a medication used to treat various heart conditions, including congestive heart failure and atrial fibrillation (A-fib). Ironically, some research has suggested that, for people who have A-fib, taking the drug may increase the risk of dying by more than 20%. Digoxin has also been linked to nausea, vomiting, and severe gastrointestinal issues such as constipation and perianal infections. These negative side effects are more likely to occur when the medication is combined the anti-arrhythmic agent Quinidine, which can also result in overdose and death.
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Heroin is an illicit recreational Opioid drug made from Morphine. Typically injected or snorted, the drug is available as either a white or brown powder, or a black and sticky substance known as Black Tar Heroin. The drug invites dependency quickly; withdrawal begins after roughly 6 to 12 hours. Serious health complications in users include collapsed veins, damaged tissue, infected heart lining, and more. According to the CDC, the number of Heroin users has more than doubled; approximately 80% of new users are coming to Heroin after having abused prescription Opioids. Treatment medications can help those looking to recover from Heroin addiction.
15. Semi-Synthetic Opioids
Common semi-Synthetic Opioids include Percocet, Vicodin, and OxyContin. These medications are generally used to treat moderate to severe pain; they are highly addictive and present a high risk of misuse. Misuse can cause slowed breathing which often results in hypoxia, a condition that results when too little oxygen reaches the brain. Opioids are also often combined with other drugs to increase intoxication, including Cocaine and alcohol, which significantly raises the risk of fatal overdose. America is currently undergoing an Opioid epidemic due to the prevalence and high overdose rate of Opioid drugs. A multifaceted treatment plan can help a user achieve sobriety and stave off the worst of withdrawal.
Even Common Drugs Are Deadly
The most dangerous drugs are not always the ones that people think of when they think about addiction. Unhealthy habits and problematic substance use can have slow, insidious harms that build up over time; users may find themselves in the thick of a severe health crisis without ever having seen a clear warning sign that they were headed there.
Even prescription medication, and perhaps especially prescription medication, can result in dependency and overdose. If you or a loved one is worried about the effects of a substance, legal or illegal, or wants to learn healthier ways to cope with life’s stressors, there is help available. To learn about treatment centers nearby and get questions about recovery answered, contact a treatment provider today.