25 Most Dangerous Drugs

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In the 12 months ending in September 2020, more than 87,000 Americans died from an accidental drug overdose, the highest annual total ever recorded and an increase of more than 18,000 compared to the previous 12-month period. 

This data, released by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, highlight the effects of the pandemic on the wellbeing of the population, as well as the worsening of the ongoing opioid crisis. This includes the growing presence of dangerous synthetic opioids, most recognizably the powerful painkiller Fentanyl, a drug 50 to 100 more potent than morphine. Between 2013 and 2019, deaths from synthetic opioids increased twelvefold in the United States. These are the counties with the worst drug problem in every state. 

While street-produced synthetic opioids and other illicit drugs have certainly fueled the rise in accidental overdose deaths, they are not the only dangerous drugs. Many other drugs, including some seemingly-innocuous over-the-counter medications, can be dangerous. 

Drug overdoses are now the leading cause of accidental death in the United States. More Americans die of drug overdoses than in car accidents, which are also frequently the result of substance use — nearly half of fatal car accidents involve alcohol or other substances.

To better understand the likelihood of Americans dying from using a specific drug, it is important to also get a better understanding of the drug itself — its purpose,  properties, interactions with other drugs and alcohol, and how often it is used.

The vast majority of people who drink alcohol in the United States — more than half of Americans — do so responsibly. Millions also use pain medication every day and do not stray from their prescribed dosage. And while overdoses from prescription opioids are a major factor in the opioid epidemic, opioids are essential to many Americans who rely on them to function.

The double-edged sword of risks and benefits in prescribing opiates is common to many other drugs as well. Approximately half of all people in the United States use at least one prescription drug on a regular basis.

24/7 Wall St. reviewed 25 of the most dangerous drugs and drug mixtures based on side effects and death rates as tracked by the federal government, as well as potential risk of drug combinations according to  sources such as MedScape, WebMD, and the American Medical Association. These substances span well-known controlled drugs, infamous street drugs produced in unsafe conditions, and lethal combinations of otherwise safe medications. Many of these drugs, when taken on their own and under the correct conditions, are considered to be generally safe. They are only seriously deadly when combined inappropriately with other drugs or taken in large quantities.

However, no drug is perfectly safe, and some widely-prescribed and popular over-the-counter medications are more likely to pose a risk to more Americans than rare drugs with a higher rate of dangerous side effects simply because they are more accessible. Some of the drugs on this list are a broad category of medication with similar effects and risks, such as NSAIDs and anticoagulants, while others are a single formula. According to doctors, opioids are not the only known effective pain treatment. Here is a list of nine non-opioid treatments approved by physicians.