Most Dangerous Drugs in the World

Author: NP Addiction Clinic
Published: March 24, 2022

Drug abuse is a significant problem in the United States and the wider world, and it's only getting worse. Though many people presume that drug abuse occurs primarily through illegal substances, this is not true. Many of the most dangerous drugs are actually legal prescription drugs.

Sadly, abusing dangerous drugs gives way to potential short and long-term health complications, not to mention addiction and the risk of overdose. Across the United States, fatal overdoses are the leading cause of substance abuse death.

If you have a drug addiction, contact us for professional treatment advice. While doing so is daunting, we can help you start your recovery today.

Alternatively, find out more about some of the most dangerous drugs here.

What Does Drug Abuse Look Like?

Like many other people, you may not realize what drug abuse is classed as. It does not necessarily involve buying hard drugs from street dealers. Instead, drug abuse comes in many forms.

When you imagine someone who abuses drugs, you might picture a person who looks or acts a certain way. But those who abuse drugs come in all shapes and sizes. It's impossible to determine who has a drug addiction just by looking at them, as many people are able to conceal their addiction.

If you have a substance abuse problem, you may find you can hide any symptoms from your loved ones and employers for a while. But it always catches you out eventually. After all, you cannot run from addiction.

Drug abuse can look like this:

  • Taking illicit drugs
  • Taking prescription drugs obtained from street dealers
  • Taking someone else's prescription drugs
  • Taking your prescription drugs at a higher dose or for longer than advised
  • Taking prescription drugs to get high

It seems obvious that taking illicit substances is considered drug abuse. But prescription drug abuse is often overlooked, as is alcohol abuse due to its legality. However, it's important to remember that all drug abuse is extremely harmful to your health and well-being.

Why Do People Abuse Drugs?

There are many reasons why people abuse drugs. However, some of the most common reasons include:

  • Curiosity
  • Peer pressure
  • Self-diagnosis
  • Pain relief
  • Self-medicating
  • Mental health problems

In addition to the above, some people take drugs to fuel an existing addiction, aid study, stay alert, or decrease appetite.

If you are concerned about drug abuse, talk to someone. This could be a friend, medical professional, helpline, or even our team. We can offer confidential advice, suitable treatment, and support.

What Are the Dangers of Substance Abuse?

The exact dangers of drug abuse vary depending on the drug, the dosage, the extent of your substance abuse, and your health profile. Cocaine, for example, is more dangerous when mixed with alcohol.

Some common health risks of drug abuse include:

  • Cardiovascular problems
  • High blood pressure
  • Heart attacks
  • Strokes
  • Liver problems
  • Kidney problems
  • Digestive issues
  • Cancer
  • Brain damage
  • Sleep disorders
  • Exacerbated mental health problems
  • Psychosis
  • Seizures
  • Overdose
  • Addiction
  • Accidental death

The list above is extensive and makes for a difficult read, but it's essential to know the risks of drug abuse so you can make an informed decision. No amount of drug abuse is risk-free, and there is always a chance of addiction, even if you only use a drug once.

Drug abuse can also affect your interpersonal relationships, finances, and employment. Many employers carry out random drug tests to ensure the workplace is drug-free. Numerous drugs can be detected in your saliva, urine, and blood for several days after last use. Hair follicle tests, for example, can detect drugs in your system for up to 90 days.

What Is Substance Use Disorder?

Drug abuse affects your brain's reward center. When drugs release dopamine, the brain associates drug use with pleasure and reward. The brain adapts to this through prolonged drug use and begins to crave substances.

When a substance use disorder (SUD) or addiction develops, you gradually lose control of your substance use. Sadly, this may cause you to consume drugs despite any adverse consequences to your health.

Although it is possible to overcome an addiction, this can only be done with professional treatment and often requires a lifelong commitment to sobriety.

What Are the Most Dangerous Drugs in the World?

All drugs are highly dangerous and come with risks. But some are considered more harmful due to their high potential for overdose deaths and addiction. Below, we outline some of the most dangerous drugs found in the United States.

Prescription Opioids

Opioids are drugs containing opium. Deriving from the poppy plant, opioids are synthetic lab-made drugs usually prescribed to treat chronic pain.

Prescription opioids became popular in the 1990s as pharmaceutical companies pushed them as a form of miracle pain relief. Although these companies led many to believe that opioids would not lead to addiction, they were wrong. While opioids do relieve pain, they are extremely addictive.

Commonly prescribed opioids include:

  • Morphine
  • Codeine
  • Tramadol
  • Oxycodone

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nearly 70% of all overdose deaths in 2019 involved opioid drugs. In the United States, opioid abuse is considered an epidemic.


Fentanyl is a synthetic opiate designed to reduce severe pain following surgery. Nevertheless, it's thought to be the most dangerous drug globally.

The most significant risk of fentanyl abuse is overdose. Signs of this include:

  • Low blood pressure
  • Decreases heart rate
  • Slowed breathing
  • Cold or clammy skin
  • Drowsiness
  • Dizziness
  • Limp body
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Coma

According to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), fentanyl is 100 times more potent than morphine, with 42% of fentanyl found on the street containing a potentially lethal dose.


In 2019, more than 14,000 people died of a heroin overdose in the United States, which accounted for nearly a third of all opioid deaths. Heroin is extremely addictive and especially dangerous because it's unregulated.

People often take heroin when they can no longer obtain prescription opioids after becoming addicted to them. Heroin is sometimes mixed with other drugs such as alcohol or cocaine for a more significant effect. However, this often results in overdose.

There are many complications associated with chronic heroin use. These include:

  • Cardiovascular problems
  • Heart disease
  • Kidney disease
  • Pneumonia
  • Weakened immune system
  • Memory loss
  • Sleep problems

Injecting heroin can lead to damaged veins, blood clots, and infections such as sepsis. There is also a risk of developing hepatitis B and C, HIV, and AIDS.

Chronic heroin use can cause brain damage, affecting things like your decision-making abilities and how you handle stress.


Cocaine is a powerful stimulant that derives from the leaves of coca plants found in South America. Initially designed as an anesthetic and form of pain relief, it is a common street drug today.

Cocaine appears as a fine, white powder and is smoked, snorted, injected, or rubbed on the gums. It can also come in crystal form, which is known as crack. These administration methods come with their own health problems such as chronic nosebleeds, respiratory problems, hepatitis, HIV, and AIDS.

In 2018, it was reported that there were nearly 15,000 cocaine-related deaths in the United States.


Methamphetamine, also known as meth, is a synthetic stimulant street drug. It comes in powder, tablet, or crystal form, with the latter commonly referred to as crystal meth. Meth is usually smoked, snorted, or injected.

Risks of methamphetamine that make it a dangerous drug include:

  • Permanent damage to the heart and brain
  • Cardiovascular problems
  • Osteoporosis
  • Severe dental problems
  • Liver damage
  • Kidney damage
  • Lung damage
  • Sleep problems
  • Mental health problems
  • Psychosis

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) reports that over 16,500 methamphetamine overdose deaths were recorded in 2019 in the United States alone.


Benzodiazepines, known as benzos, are a group of highly addictive sedative drugs prescribed for health conditions such as severe anxiety and insomnia. Common benzos include Valium and Xanax.

Benzo overdoses are on the rise, and in 2019, they were responsible for 17% of all drug overdose deaths in the United States. Signs of a benzo overdose include:

  • Drowsiness
  • Confusion
  • Dizziness
  • Slurred speech
  • Memory loss
  • Blurry vision
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Hallucinations
  • Unresponsiveness
  • Coma

Benzodiazepines interfere with cognition and memory when used for a prolonged period. Studies have also found that chronic benzo abuse significantly increases the risk of dementia in later life.


You may not realize it, but alcohol is a potent mind-altering drug. A central nervous system depressant, alcohol slows messages sent between the brain and body. As alcohol provides a euphoric high, people often drink it to enhance positive emotions or to mask negative feelings.

Government guidelines state that women should consume one drink or less per day and men should only have two drinks or less per day. Heavy drinking is classed as consuming more than seven drinks per week for women and 15 drinks per week for men. Heavy drinking is considered drug abuse and can lead to addiction and alcohol poisoning, which can be fatal.


Although tobacco is legal, it comes with many health risks, including lung cancer. Lung cancer sadly has one of the lowest survival rates in the world. In 2018, the World Health Organization found that 85% of deaths from lung cancer were attributed to tobacco use.

Other dangers of long-term tobacco use include:

  • Heart disease
  • Stroke
  • Diabetes
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)

Although you can't overdose on tobacco, it is still the leading cause of preventable diseases, disability, and death. These facts make it hard to argue that it is not, in fact, a dangerous drug.

How Can I Overcome Addiction?

Addiction can be overcome through a detox and rehab program. For your safety, these treatments must be completed at a treatment facility. This is because detoxing can cause side effects that are unpleasant and, in some cases, fatal. Although rare, it is possible to experience severe withdrawal symptoms, including seizures.

Call Us Today

Having come to understand what some of the most dangerous drugs are, call our specialized team today and ask about treatment options for drug abuse and addiction. We can answer any questions you have about substance abuse disorders and provide you with a wealth of information about our treatments.

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