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5 minutes

The Top 5 Most Dangerous Drugs on the Planet

Medically Reviewed
Last Medically Reviewed on: June 26, 2022
Smoking woman

Updated on

23 Jun, 2022

While all drugs have the potential to be harmful, even life-threatening, some drugs are inherently more dangerous than others. This is particularly true if the user is abusing the drug or drugs, combining drugs with other substances, or taking drugs illegally. As such, each year, there is an increase in drug-related deaths in the U.S.

While some drugs have the potential to cause immediate, sudden death, other drugs create long-term health side effects that can eventually lead to fatality. Therefore, learning which drugs are the most detrimental to the user can potentially mitigate the chances of one overdosing and being in a life-threatening situation. Furthermore, it is important to note that if you or a loved one struggles with an addiction to any of these drugs, medical help is sought immediately.

Number 1: Nicotine

One of the most commonly abused drugs, and also one of the most deadly, is nicotine. Nicotine causes over 480,000 deaths in the U.S. annually, costing the U.S. billions of dollars. However, despite the warning labels printed on each tobacco box, most people have difficulty breaking the cycle of nicotine usage. This is because nicotine is also one of the most addictive drugs available and has a highly relaxing side-effect. As such, since culture is gravitating more towards a stressful lifestyle, the unfortunate reality is that nicotine use is continually being utilized to “de-stress.”

Smoking, in particular, is the leading cause of lung cancer deaths, causing around 80%-90% of all lung-related fatalities yearly. Additionally, smoking tobacco increases one’s risk of death by stroke, coronary heart disease, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). This is especially true if one combines smoking with other substances like alcohol, which it commonly is.

Number 2: Alcohol

Ranking right up there with nicotine, alcohol is also one of the most highly abused substances on the planet. Because culture tends to accept, even promote, alcohol use, this is also one of the hardest drugs to quit, as many people do not sense they have a problem with alcohol use until it’s too late. As a result, alcohol causes more than 140,000 U.S. deaths annually.

Some side effects of consuming alcohol include slurred speech, blacking out, or even more severe symptoms like liver disease and coma, especially if abused long-term.

Number 3: Fentanyl

Fentanyl is an extremely potent Opioid used as a prescription medication in hospitals to treat moderate to severe pain. However, this drug has now, in this day and age, taken many forms and is often synthetically manufactured and highly abused.

50 to 100 times stronger than morphine and 50 times the strength of heroin, Fentanyl is extremely dangerous and can cause death upon first use. There were 56,516 deaths reported due to Fentanyl overdose in 2020. Because Fentanyl is extremely addictive and dangerous, one must seek medical help when detoxing off Fentanyl.

Number 4: Heroin

Another highly addictive opioid, heroin, is responsible for killing 13,165 users in 2020. As such, heroin is one of the most deadly drugs available in the world today. Furthermore, a user can encounter fatality upon first use because heroin is often combined with other synthetic chemicals, like Fentanyl.

Since heroin is extremely addictive, it can be extremely difficult to quit. Therefore, if one is addicted to this drug, it is vital for their health and safety to get appropriate detox guidance. Seeking help through an inpatient drug rehab facility is the most effective way to detox and stay sober in the long run, especially from highly addictive drugs like heroin.

Number 5: Cocaine

Unfortunately, this highly addictive and dangerous drug has become increasingly popular as time has gone on. The number of deaths due to cocaine overdose is also on the rise, from 5,419 deaths in 2014 to around 19,447 in 2020. Much like heroin, cocaine triggers a “euphoric” experience in the user’s system due to a large amount of dopamine released when taken.

With its highly damaging effects on the body and mind of the user, cocaine can cause intense feelings of paranoia, excitability, weight loss, anxiety, and depression. Some symptoms of cocaine withdrawal include agitation and restless behavior, depression, fatigue, feelings of discomfort, and unpleasant dreams. Detoxing off cocaine can be extremely challenging, as the user typically craves the drug to ward off withdrawal symptoms. Therefore, just as the other drugs require professional medical help to safely detox, it is necessary for the safety of the individual abusing cocaine to seek professional help when detoxing.

How to Get Help if You are Addicted to the Most Dangerous Drugs in the World

Attempting to detox off any drug, whether on this previously mentioned list or not, can put the user at risk of encountering serious, even fatal, withdrawal symptoms. Therefore, it is never advised that one try to quit a drug alone, especially trying to quit cold turkey. For this reason, it is vital to the safety of the individual struggling with addiction that they seek help through a trained medical professional or an inpatient drug rehab facility that knows how to appropriately and safely detox the individual.

Inpatient drug rehabs are particularly helpful to achieving long-term recovery as they remove all distractions and temptations that keep one craving further drug use and provide the care, support, and guidance of trained addiction specialists that can teach one how to maintain lifelong sobriety.

If you are struggling with an addiction, the time to regain control of your life and your sobriety is now. Reach out to our team of friendly treatment providers today and be liberated from the chains of addiction once and for all so that you can start walking on the path to a better tomorrow immediately.


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. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Fast Facts. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Published June 2, 2021. Accessed June 26, 2022.
  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. What Are the Risk Factors for Lung Cancer? | CDC. Published October 18, 2021. Accessed June 26, 2022.
  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Alcohol-Related Deaths. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Published April 19, 2022. Accessed June 26, 2022.
  4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Fentanyl | CDC’s Response to the Opioid Overdose Epidemic | CDC. Published June 1, 2022. Accessed June 26, 2022.
  5. National Institute on Drug Abuse. Overdose Death Rates. National Institute on Drug Abuse. Published January 20, 2022. Accessed June 26, 2022.
  6. MedlinePlus. Heroin. Accessed June 26, 2022.
  7. Borke J. Cocaine withdrawal: MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia. Published February 12, 2021. Accessed June 26, 2022.

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Amanda Stevens, BS

Medical Content Writer

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. In her spare time she loves learning about health, nutrition, meditation, spiritual practices, and enjoys being a mother to two beautiful children.

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