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Car accidents used to be the top-ranking cause of accidental deaths in the United States, but that isn’t the case anymore. Now, drug overdoses are the leading cause of accidental deaths in the United States.

Many of the drugs on this list are considered “safe” and fully legal. The problem is when they are misused. Let’s take a closer look at these drugs and what makes them so dangerous.

The Facts About Drugs

Unfortunately, some of the most harmful drugs on the planet are trusted by doctors and given to patients. As a result, many overdoses happen after misusing prescription medication, either prescribed to the person or not.

Any drugs that give the user a euphoric effect, releasing serotonin, endorphins, and dopamine, can be dangerous. Altering the chemical balance of the brain is risky because the person’s brain now relies on the drug to keep that balance of brain chemicals consistent. Because it makes the user feel so good, it can be hard to stop once they realize they have become dependent.

How dangerous a drug depends on how addictive it is. Everyone responds to drugs differently, though, so what one person can tolerate, the next person may not be able to. Despite this, some drugs are extremely addictive and dangerous regardless of who takes them. These are the drugs that are more likely to result in overdose deaths. 

Many of the drugs we will look at are illegal. Still, a few on the list are legal and often recommended by doctors to treat ailments, from headaches to blocking serious pain after injuries or surgery. When misused, these drugs can cause serious harm to the body.

Acetaminophen

Also known as Tylenol, Feverall, and Mapap, Acetaminophen is often used as a pain reliever for issues such as headaches, menstrual cramps, and soreness from injuries. In addition, in infants and children, it is often used as a pain reliever and fever reducer.

Taking too much of this drug can cause acetaminophen toxicity or even death. Yearly, there are approximately 500 deaths due to an overdose of Tylenol, with 50 percent being unintentional.

Alcohol

Legal for all adults ages 21 and over, alcohol is one of the most dangerous substances you can ingest. Malt liquor, beer, and wine all contribute to the 93,296 annual deaths in the United States. Alcohol can be deadly and lead to many conditions such as heart disease, liver damage, and cancer.

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Benzodiazepines

Anti-anxiety medications such as Klonopin, Xanax, and Valium are all benzodiazepines. This is a more dangerous and deadly drug because it is prescribed frequently and can lead to deadly respiratory depression. In 2020, 12,290 overdose deaths were caused by benzodiazepines.

Cocaine

This strong stimulant has been a popular recreational drug for decades, commonly referred to as blow, coke, or yayo. Cocaine can lead to many long-term health risks, including organ failure, stroke, seizures, and unhealthy weight loss. The year 2020 saw about 19,447 cocaine-related overdose deaths in the United States.

Heroin

Heroin is a dangerous opioid made from morphine, a substance that naturally occurs within the seed of opium poppy plants. Heroin is found as a white or brown powder and is typically snorted or injected.

Methamphetamine

Meth is a stimulant that is both very damaging and habit-forming. It can cause massive changes to the brain, and long-term use can lead to dental destruction, psychosis, and cognitive deficits.

Spice/K2

Spice, or K2, is chemically related to THC but is much more dangerous than marijuana. Synthetic pot can lead to seizures and/or anxiety attacks that lead to hospital visits.

Facts About the Side-Effects of Drugs

Even though all drugs are dangerous to an extent, some are drastically more dangerous than others. The risk factor increases when the user abuses the drugs or combines them with other substances. Every year, drug-related deaths seem to climb, surpassing the previous record set.

In some cases, you risk sudden and immediate death, while others cause your health to decline over the years. These long-term side effects can lead to serious illness and complications and then, eventually, death. Therefore, knowing about the impact each drug can have on someone may be able to help reduce future overdose deaths. In addition, if people are aware of the risks, it may deter them from using.

Facing the Facts: Living Free from Drugs and Alcohol

Whether you or a loved one are having problems with drugs or alcohol, you don’t have to suffer alone. Recovery is possible, and with the help of your friends, family, and an experienced recovery counselor, you can plan to get clean.

The best way to get through your addiction and come out on the other side is to plan exactly how you will quit. This adjustment period immediately following your last use can be quite difficult. The cravings will be strongest at this time, so you must know exactly what to do to move forward.

united healthcare detoxing at rehab

The process of quitting might look like this:

  • Realizing that there is a problem and that you need to quit
  • Understanding that cravings may stick around for a while
  • Finding a medical professional or counselor to talk to about quitting
  • Removing all drugs, paraphernalia, and triggers from your home and car
  • Understanding what your triggers are and how to refrain from falling back into old habits
  • Picking a day to quit and letting people know of your plan

To ensure you have all of the treatment strategies and healthy coping mechanisms that you need for a better chance at long-term success, you can even seek help through an inpatient or intensive outpatient recovery center. Inpatient drug rehab facilities are the best and most effective way to kick an addiction to the curb for good. Because they eliminate all outside distractions and temptations to return to drug use and have medical staff on-site, an individual attending an inpatient drug rehab can rest assured knowing that their well-being is in good hands at all times of the day. 

Reach out today if you are ready to break the destructive nature of addiction and live free from drugs/alcohol. You deserve the liberation and freedom that is gained from being substance-free. 

Sources:

Infinite Recovery has strict sourcing guidelines and relies on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations for our references. We avoid using tertiary references as our sources. You can learn more about how we source our references by reading our editorial guidelines and medical review policy.

  1. Schiller EY, Goyal A, Mechanic OJ. Opioid Overdose. In: StatPearls. StatPearls Publishing; 2022. Accessed June 26, 2022. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK470415/
  2. Agrawal S, Khazaeni B. Acetaminophen Toxicity. In: StatPearls. StatPearls Publishing; 2022. Accessed June 26, 2022. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK441917/
  3. Esser MB, Sherk A, Liu Y, et al. Deaths and Years of Potential Life Lost From Excessive Alcohol Use – United States, 2011-2015. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2020;69(30):981-987. doi:10.15585/mmwr.mm6930a1
  4. National Institute on Drug Abuse. Overdose Death Rates. National Institute on Drug Abuse. Published January 20, 2022. Accessed June 26, 2022. https://nida.nih.gov/research-topics/trends-statistics/overdose-death-rates
Amanda Stevens, BS

Medical Content Writer

Amanda Stevens, BS

Amanda is a prolific medical content writer specializing in eating disorders and addiction treatment. She graduated Magnum Cum Laude from Purdue University with a B.S. in Social Work. As a person in recovery from disordered eating, she is passionate about seeing people heal and transform. She writes for popular treatment centers such as Ocean Recovery, Ascendant NY, The Heights Treatment, Epiphany Wellness, New Waters Recovery and adolescent mental health treatment center BasePoint Academy. In her spare time she loves learning about health, nutrition, meditation, spiritual practices, and enjoys being the a mother of a beautiful daughter.

Last medically reviewed June 26, 2022

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