Drug overdose is now the leading cause of accidental death in the United States. Every day, more than 190 Americans die from a drug overdose, with more than two-thirds involving an opioid.
What, exactly, is causing this record number of fatal overdoses in America? What are the deadliest, most dangerous drugs leading this national crisis? Just last month, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) gave us some answers.
The CDC released a new statistics report in December 2018, highlighting the drugs most frequently involved in fatal overdoses today. The top 10 most dangerous drugs, based on their consistently high number of overdose deaths, were ranked as follows:
Six out of 10 of these deadly drugs fall under the classification of opioids – the drug category fueling the nation’s drug crisis. Opioids are highly addictive drugs that carry great potential for abuse and overdose. They include prescription painkillers, such as oxycodone (OxyContin) and hydrocodone (Vicodin), as well as illegal substances like heroin. Both illicit and prescription opioids are dangerous in that they can lead to lead to addiction, overdose, and death – even those prescribed by a doctor. In fact, the most dangerous drug of all, according to the CDC, is the opioid medication fentanyl.
The Most Dangerous Drug in America: Fentanyl
Fentanyl is a powerful, analgesic drug that was originally intended as an anesthetic, to treat patients with severe or chronic pain. Today, it is classified as a Schedule II narcotic drug, due to its potentially harmful psychological and physical effects.
Fentanyl is 100 times stronger than morphine, and 50 times more potent than the street drug heroin. When used in a medical facility, fentanyl is carefully monitored, as even the smallest dose can be fatal. However, in recent years, fentanyl has taken to the streets. Now, many unknowing users are ingesting the drug by accident, unaware of the dosage, and overdosing as a result.
This is because fentanyl is being laced into other commonly abused substances, such as heroin and cocaine, to intensify the effects. In fact, the new CDC report found that in 2016, 2 out of 5 cocaine overdoses involved fentanyl, and one-third of fentanyl overdoses also involved heroin. Fentanyl is already the most dangerous drug out there, but combined with other substances, the risks are amplified. Mixed drug combinations are among the most dangerous to use of all, due to their ranging and adverse effects on the body and mind.
The other most dangerous opioid drugs, according to the CDC, include:
- Morphine, an analgesic and narcotic drug intended to relieve pain
- Heroin, a highly addictive, illicit opioid drug derived from morphine
- Methadone, a chemically-similar, but longer-acting drug than morphine
- Hydrocodone, commonly known under the brand name Vicodin
- Oxycodone, commonly prescribed as OxyContin
All of the above dangerous opioid drugs have high potential for abuse and overdose. You can read more about the dangers of opioid drugs by reading our article, “Lifting the Mask: The Dangers of Prescription Drugs,” online.
The Centers for Disease Control also reported a handful of other deadly drugs contributing to the overdose crisis across America – some that fall outside of the opioid classification. What are these drugs exactly, and which are the most dangerous?
Benzodiazepines: Benzodiazepines are typically prescribed to reduce anxiety and insomnia, and are known for their sedative effects. In this category, the CDC ranked alprazolam (the active ingredient in brand name Xanax) and diazepam (found in the medication Valium) as the most dangerous, contributing to 13 percent of overdose deaths in 2016. Alprazolam (Xanax) in particular saw a spike in overdoses in recent years. Benzodiazepines (sometimes referred to as “Benzos”), when used in ways other than prescribed, can cause harmful effects on the body, including seizures and slowed brain activity. In combination with other drugs, such as stimulants (which have the opposite effect), they can be especially dangerous to a person’s health.
Stimulants: The CDC also reported that a few stimulants are common culprits of overdose deaths today. Stimulants, often called “uppers,” are known to increase alertness, energy, and attention in users. They can be prescription drugs, such as Adderall, or illicit drugs like cocaine. According to the CDC, cocaine and methamphetamine (used both medically and illicitly) are the most dangerous stimulant drugs. In 2016 – the latest data available – cocaine was involved in 18 percent of overdose deaths, ranking as third most deadly drug today. Methamphetamine followed closely behind, contributing to 11 percent of fatal drug overdoses that year. Overdose deaths involving cocaine began spiking in 2014, around the same time the spikes in fentanyl-related overdoses began.
Back in 2011, fentanyl was involved in about four percent of overdose deaths in America. In 2016, the highly addictive drug was involved in nearly 30 percent of fatal drug overdoses – an increase of about 113 percent each year. Today, fentanyl is the most dangerous drug, and something that both parents, teenagers, clinicians, counselors, and teachers should all be on the lookout for. Even recreational use of cocaine, or a one-time experiment with pills, can be laced with this deadly substance.
If you suspect your loved one is abusing drugs, it is important to intervene. Drug addiction and overdose do not discriminate, and can happen to anyone who uses. Know the signs of opioid overdose and know when it’s time to get help. Please do not hesitate to reach out for professional help by calling Turnbridge at 877-581-1793.