The odds of dying from an accidental opioid overdose are higher than the odds of dying in a car wreck. But opioids aren’t the only dangerous drugs. Other prescription medications can be lethal if they’re misused. Some street drugs also increase your risk of death. Many substances are even more dangerous when they’re taken in combination with others.
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What Makes a Drug Dangerous?
However, in many cases, such as when a painkiller is prescribed after surgery, the benefits outweigh the risks. For the most dangerous drugs, the risks overshadow the benefits.
The most hazardous drugs are associated with a high death rate, and some are easy to overdose on, and others harm your long-term health.
Dangerous drugs are typically highly addictive. If they weren’t, most people likely wouldn’t continue to take them, knowing logically that they could be unsafe.
Some of the drugs in the list below are acutely dangerous, and misuse can cause erratic symptoms that put you at risk of developing severe health problems or dying. Others are dangerous because they impair your wellness over time and are difficult to quit.
Nicotine is one of the most addictive drugs. The addiction to nicotine doesn’t pose the most major health threat; the tobacco products that people use do.
Although nicotine doesn’t loosen your inhibitions or cause risky behavior, cigarette smoking is responsible for about 480,000 deaths each year. Smoking, vaping, and chewing tobacco raise your risk of developing numerous health problems, such as cancer, heart disease, and lung disease. If nobody smoked, about 33 percent of cancer deaths would be prevented.
Nicotine is so addictive because it activates the pleasure center of the brain. Even though the reward from using nicotine is mild compared to other drugs, consuming it is usually repeated frequently. You teach your brain to want more.
Moreover, nicotine may prime your brain to be more receptive to cocaine, and it even makes non-drug activities more pleasurable.
If nicotine is the deadliest drug, why is cigarette smoking allowed at many rehab facilities? In general, nicotine’s short-term effects aren’t as dangerous as those of some other drugs. Most rehabs aim to treat the most urgent need before managing long-term risks.
Alcohol is one of the most addictive drugs. Heavy alcohol use can cause immediate injury and long-term health problems for the individual. Alcohol is also one of the most likely drugs to harm others due to the conflict that it can cause within families and communities.
In the U.S., about 261 deaths are attributed to heavy alcohol use each day. More than 50% of these fatalities are due to long-term issues caused by alcohol, such as liver disease, cardiovascular disease, and cancer. Even if you don’t drink excessively, daily alcohol use can increase your risk of death by 20% compared to people who drink more sporadically.
However, alcohol can also kill someone quickly. Many people die from combining alcohol with other substances, alcohol-related suicide, and impaired driving accidents.
If someone has been using alcohol moderately or heavily for a while, they may put their lives in danger by quitting cold turkey. When you have a dependency on alcohol, your body gets used to the slowed-down state that the depressant induces. If you suddenly stop using it, your body has trouble managing the flood of central nervous system activity. You may experience severe and life-threatening withdrawal symptoms, such as delirium tremens and an abnormal heart rate.
Heroin, fentanyl, Percocet, and codeine are examples of opioids. Some are available legally with a prescription, and others, such as heroin, are illicit. Doctors may prescribe fentanyl for severe pain or injury, and however, it’s also made and sold illegally.
When they’re taken as prescribed for a specific medical condition over a short-term period, opioids aren’t particularly dangerous. The risk develops as an individual becomes dependent on the substance. Opioids bind to the body’s opioid receptors, and this produces a pleasurable, rewarding effect.
However, those receptors are supposed to pick up on the body’s natural feel-good chemicals. When opioids hit the receptors instead, the body gets used to receiving the hit, and it diminishes the production of its pleasure-enhancing chemicals. That’s why people who are dependent on opioids often feel more pain after they’ve quit.
Opioids often become dangerous when purchased illegally or misused, and taking more than prescribed can lead to overdose. Street drugs are not always what they seem. Illicit drugs are highly unregulated, and many are cut with other substances or created in inconsistent dosages.
Still, opioids are highly addictive, and your risk of addiction increases with larger, more frequent doses. Even safe opioid use has a high probability of becoming unsafe down the road.
About 50,000 Americans die each year from overdoses that involve opioids. The opioid crisis also strains the economy, with total costs associated with opioid use disorder and overdoses in the U.S in the thousands of billions.
More than 12% of adults use benzodiazepines in a given year. These drugs, which are often prescribed for anxiety, are relaxing and sedating. While some people misuse benzos to manage tension or improve sleep, others use them recreationally to achieve a euphoric, peaceful, and laid-back mood.
But benzodiazepines are depressants. Combining them with other depressants, such as alcohol, can slow down your respiration and heart rate to the point of death. Mixing benzos with stimulants, such as amphetamine, increases the potential for addiction to either substance.
Dependency on benzos increases the dangers, and they have a similar effect on your body as alcohol. If you rely on benzos, quitting suddenly could be fatal. It’s best to taper off benzodiazepines slowly to reduce the danger of death.
Crystal meth is a stimulant that makes you feel euphoric and energized. The false sense of wellness can make people do things that they wouldn’t normally do during a high. They may put themselves in dangerous situations because they feel invincible. The acute effects increase the risk of accidental death.
This substance is also highly addictive. The crash that occurs after the high diminishes is exceptionally unpleasant, leading you to take more.
Since crystal meth is so stimulating for the body, however, continual use leads to sleep, hyperactivity, and irritability problems. Many people who use crystal meth ignore their need for sleep or food. The lack of high-quality rest and nourishment causes health issues, such as tooth decay and malnutrition.
Long-term, permanent damage has been reported from crystal meth use. The substance can cause kidney damage, liver damage, impaired blood vessels, and an irreversible increase in heart rate and blood pressure. Brain damage and memory loss can lead to learning problems and mood swings.
Finding Help for Substance Use Disorders
Nicotine is most harmful due to its long-term effects, but the other drugs can be immediately dangerous. They may make you behave differently than you usually would, acting erratically and making unsafe decisions. These substances have a significant negative impact on your health.
The good news is that the dangers decrease as you reduce your use of the drug. Because eliminating certain drugs from your system poses an immediate health threat, it’s best to initiate your recovery with professional help. At Long Island Treatment Center, we help our clients get their lives back. Treatment reduces long and short-term health risks and can help you live a long, fulfilling life.