We hope you know this already, but drugs can be dangerous – some more than others.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has looked at the drug-related deaths that happened between 2011 and 2016, the most recent year data is available, to rank the 10 deadliest drugs being used in the United States.
This isn’t the first time the CDC has released such a list – they announce the deadliest drugs each year.
But it is the first time in four years that heroin hasn’t topped the list.
Instead, fentanyl has been ranked the deadliest drug in the U.S.
Drug overdoses from fentanyl have risen pretty rapidly in the last decade. In 2011, fentanyl accounted for 4% of drug overdoses, while in 2016 it accounted for 28.8%
Take a look at the rankings of the ten deadliest drugs below.
Fentanyl is a synthetic opiate that’s similar to morphine, but up to 100 times stronger. It’s traditionally used to treat patients experiencing severe pain.
Outside of hospitals it’s sold as a powder, in tablets, or mixed in with heroin. When taken fentanyl binds to the body’s opioid receptors, creating an increase in dopamine levels, which produces a state of intense euphoria.
It can also cause drowsiness, nausea, confusion, constipation, unconsciousness, coma, and death.
The drug’s potency means there’s a high risk of overdose, especially when mixed with other drugs such as cocaine.
Heroin is another opiate, but it’s usually sold as a white or brown powder. It’s made from morphine.
People who take heroin feel happy, relaxed, and sleepy.
It’s very easy to overdose from heroin as it’s so strong, and remains the deadliest drug in the UK.
The drug can slow your breathing, causing the taker to slip into a coma or die. Because it sedates you, it’s difficult to cough which can cause the taker to choke on their own vomit.
There are also risks related to injecting heroin, such as infection, damaging veins, and the spread of viruses.
Cocaine accounted for 17.8% of drug-related deaths in 2016.
People who take cocaine usually feel happy, excited, more awake, chatty, and confidence. They might also feel anxious, panicky, and paranoid, and cocaine can make you feel sick and give you diarrhea.
The drug is risky because is raises your blood pressure, which can lead to a fit or a heart attack. It can also make people take risks they wouldn’t usually.
The official name for crystal meth, methamphetamine is part of the amphetamine family of drugs, meaning it makes you feel ultra alert and exhilarated.
You might also feel paranoid, aggressive, or agitated.
Meth can be swallowed, snorted, smoked, or injected. It has a severe comedown.
The drug increases the heart rate and blood pressure, raising the risk of heart attack, and can also cause strokes, lung damage, kidney damage, coma, and death in the case of an overdose.
There’s evidence that long-term methamphetamine use can cause brain damage. It can also induce psychosis.
Alpraqzolam is a type of benzodiazepine that’s often used to treat anxiety and panic disorders in the U.S. It’s a prescription drug that can genuinely help those struggling, but it can also be abused.
Benzodiazepines are essentially tranquilisers, inducing calmness, relaxation, and sleep.
They’re extremely risky when combined with other depressant drugs such as heroin or alcohol, as the nervous system can become so relaxed you lose consciousness and die.
Addiction to benzos is common, and can cause withdrawal symptoms such as tremors, nausea, vomiting, fits, and depression.
Injecting benzos is extremely dangerous and can be fatal, as the process can collapse veins, leading to deadly infection.
Oxycodone is another opiate that’s used to treat severe pain. It was the deadliest drug back in 2011, but now other opiates have overtaken it.
When prescribed by a doctor in small doses for a short period of time, oxycodone can be safe, but it’s increasingly being abused outside of hospital settings.
Methadone, also known as physeptone, mixture, and linctus, is a medication that’s used to treat addiction to opiates such as heroin. It helps to relieve withdrawal symptoms and can block the effects of opiates.
It has the same effects of heroin but on a much lower scale, so will be prescribed to those trying to give up heroin. Over time the dose of methadone is reduced, allowing the person to go clean.
The issue arises when people take methadone without supervision from a doctor. Getting hold of methadone illegally can mean you’re buying drugs that have been tampered with or cut with something else, which could cause serious side effects.
Overdose is also possible, and can lead to death.
Morphine is another opiate used to treat pain. When prescribed by a doctor it can be helpful, but the problem is that it many who are prescribed morphine end up misusing it or developing a dependence on the drug.
When taking morphine outside of a prescription, risks include constipation, itching, nausea, lethargy, dizziness, and suppression of breathing.
Combined with other drugs or taken in too high an amount can cause kidney failure, liver failure, and respiratory arrest.
Best known as Vicodin, hydrocodone is another opiate used to treat pain.
Another type of benzodiazepene, the primary risk of taking diazepam is combining it with other depressive drugs, which can cause coma and death. It’s often known as Valium.
Worried about drugs?