Although it’s a disease with many contributors—biological or genetic, developmental, behavioral, social, and even circumstantial—addiction develops differently for everyone. Consequently, those who suffer from addiction tend to experience symptoms on a very individualized basis depending on a number of factors, including the individual’s age, length of time spent in active addiction, and even the substance to which an individual has become addicted.
And even considering the relative certainty that is addiction for those who continue to experiment with recreational substance abuse, we have found that there are certain drugs or mind-altering substances that are more highly addictive than others, meaning that they result in chemical dependency much more frequently and faster than other substances. However, the danger of alcohol and drugs isn’t due solely to their addictive potential. There are other components of the abuse of chemical substances that are just as dangerous as their potential to cause addiction.
Determining the amount of danger a drug poses involves considering not only addictive potential, but also short and long-term health effects, how a drug’s use or abuse can affect others, the effect a drug tends to have on crime levels, and other socioeconomic indicators.
Five Most Dangerous Drugs in the U.S.
Sources around the world tend to disagree on the exact ranking of the most commonly abused drugs in terms of which present more danger than others. However, according to recent credible and recent sources, these five are the most dangerous drugs in the United States.
Though not explicitly a drug by conventional standards, alcohol is a mind-altering, chemical substance much like illicit drugs despite being widely available for legal purchase and consumption. Much of the danger of alcohol is attributed to it being legal almost everywhere and, thus, very widely available and abused at very high rates. In the United States, alcohol can be purchased from most convenience stores, grocery stores, and liquor stores by anyone aged 21 or older.
However, many adults over the age of 21 live in households with individuals who are under the legal drinking age, but who still have access to alcohol after others have purchased it legally. This has led to a high incidence of underage drinking, putting adolescents, teens, and young adults at risk of developing alcoholism—or at least an affinity for alcohol—at very young ages.
Moreover, alcohol is a substance that affects others arguably more than the individual who consumes the alcohol when you consider accidents that occur as a result of drunk drivers and the effect that an alcoholic parent can have on children. Due to the widespread availability and the potentially deadly effects that it can have on third parties, alcohol is considered one of the most dangerous drugs in the United States.
Known as one of the most common medications used and dispensed as part of replacement therapy for the treatment of heroin and opiate addiction, methadone has given many individuals a second chance as living a normal life free of many of the effects of addiction. However, methadone can be incredibly dangerous when individuals consume the substance unsupervised, such as buying it off the streets.
Among the dangers that come from buying other prescriptions medications, methadone is known for having a number of adverse reactions with other substances, especially ones like heroin, opiate painkillers, and benzodiazepines. As such, it’s incredibly easy for individuals to overdose and die as a result of buying and consuming street methadone.
Drugs known as barbiturates were a public nuisance in the 1970s when they were more widely used for medicinal purpose. Recreational abuse of barbiturates slowly declined over time, but recent reports indicate another surge in barbiturate abuse, especially among teens and young adults. This is why it gets a spot on the list of the most dangerous drugs on the market.
Barbiturates have traditionally be prescribed to help treat insomnia, epilepsy, and severe anxiety, which means they tend to have a hypnotic, sedative, sleep-inducing effect. As such, they’re mainly used today to counter the effects of widely-used stimulants, allowing recreational drug users to “come down” from cocaine, methamphetamine, and other similar street drugs.
However, one of the traits of barbiturates that make them so dangerous is the narrow therapeutic index associated with barbiturates, which means that the difference between a therapeutic dose and a dose that produces overdose is very small compared to many other substances. This makes it very easy for individuals abusing barbiturates to take too much, accounting for high incidence in overdose death among those who abuse barbiturates.
Cocaine became very trendy just a few decades ago, leading up to its widespread availability in a smokable, freebase form called crack. Although opioids have surpassed cocaine in terms of rates of use and addiction, cocaine addiction has remained a major problem in our society.
There have been numerous studies on cocaine, seeking to isolate its traits that account for such a high addictive potential. According to studies, cocaine essentially hijacks the brain and makes it difficult for users to think of anything other than consuming more cocaine with residual effects that last as much as a week or more.
Additionally, the chemical changes that occur as a result of cocaine being introduced into the body are very rapid, resulting in the experience of cocaine intoxication being incredibly addictive. The surge of dopamine released in the brain upon consumption of cocaine is attributed to its addictive potential as this is what reinforces continued abuse of cocaine, making the development of a cocaine dependency an incredibly quick process and making cocaine one of the most dangerous drugs available.
Having become an epidemic in virtually every corner of the United States, heroin addiction has reached previously unseen highs in recent years and accounts for a significant percentage of individuals in addiction treatment programs. Due to its widespread availability and the recent spike in rates of abuse and addiction, heroin is widely considered one of the most dangerous drugs on the streets.
For one thing, the great variability in the purity of heroin makes it easy for individuals to overdose when they buy a batch that’s much stronger than what they’ve become accustomed too. Moreover, there are a number of adulterants that dealers use to dilute heroin in order to increase their stock, some of which—like fentanyl—can be fatal in even the smallest doses. Another danger that’s prominent of heroin has to do with the most common route of administration, which is through the use of hypodermic needles.
Since it’s widely illegal to buy hypodermic syringes without a valid prescription for a substance that requires them, heroin addicts often reuse and share syringes, resulting in the rapid transmission of diseases like HIV, hepatitis, and AIDS. In fact, such diseases have ravaged many communities in which heroin addiction is exceedingly common.
If you or someone you love is suffering from addiction to alcohol or drugs and would like to learn more about the risks of dependency or addiction treatment, Drug Treatment Center Finder is here to help. Call us today to speak with one of our experienced recovery specialists who can help match those in need with the treatment programs that can address individual needs.