Top 10 Dangerous Drugs

Authored by Pin Ng

Edited by Alexander Bentley

Reviewed by Dr Ruth Arenas Matta

Top 10 Dangerous Drugs


Saying that drugs are dangerous is a bit like saying water is wet – i.e., incredibly obvious. However, different kinds of drugs work in different ways and have different effects on the body, especially when used over a long-term period.


There are many ways of qualifying what makes a substance dangerous, including the drug effects on the body short and long term, the active factors, the number of recorded deaths listing drugs as a cause, and how dangerous drugs are for the user compared to how dangerous the user is towards others while under the influence. There is no one way to determine overall which is the most dangerous substance, however, which negates the usefulness of the above categories as measures of risk.


For example, using the number of recorded deaths as a measure is difficult, as legal substances such as alcohol or tobacco are recorded in much higher numbers than illegal substances. Despite the unreliability, experts generally agree that the world’s most dangerous drugs score highly in all these categories and that there are also more factors leading to the warnings about certain drugs. To help increase awareness of what drugs are considered most dangerous, we’ve put together a useful list of the Top 10 Dangerous Drugs.

The 10 Most Dangerous Drugs


  • 1. Alcohol; Legal drugs can be more dangerous than illegal drugs in many cases, as people often equate legality with harmlessness, or with a lesser chance of risk. The most common of these is alcohol, whose presence in our everyday lives has become so normalized that we often don’t see it as a danger. It is used for its ability to lower our inhibitions, but is a depressant, meaning that it lowers our mood when we are under the influence of it. Alcohol causes everything from slurred speech to blackouts and coma, so it can sometimes be difficult to tell whether someone is over-consuming, as tolerances can be varied. What isn’t difficult is the fact that approximately 88,000 Americans die every year from alcohol-related causes – a statistic that, combined with its normalization might make alcohol the most dangerous on this list.


  • 2. Tobacco/Nicotine: Tobacco is the leading cause of preventable disability, disease, and death in the United States, according to the CDC, yet is smoked by nearly 40 million Americans annually.  It is very addictive, and legal, yet is also a cause for many illnesses such as Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), stroke, coronary heart disease, and lung cancer, with Tobacco alone being the cause of 90% of lung cancer deaths.


  • 3. Fentanyl: Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid designed to help the body react to pain differently and is up to 100 times stronger than Morphine. It is used to treat severe pain and is also in use as an anesthetic, but also has a high recreational value. A highly addictive substance, fentanyl is thought to be a huge contributor to the spread of the opioid epidemic and is often manufactured illegally into many forms, such as via injection, snorting, or swallowing


  • 4. Methamphetamines (Meth): Meth, or crystal meth, is a stimulant with an incredibly high addiction rate. Meth is notable due to the ease of addiction and the physical transformation it causes in a user: rapid weight loss, tooth decay, skin infection, and elated mood as it stimulates dopamine in the brain for a high that lasts a few days. Also easy to make using household items, it is usually imported or produced illegally.


  • 5. Heroin: Heroin is one of the most well-known synthetic opioids and is also highly addictive. It is available as a white powder or a brown tar and creates mental euphoria when injected. It is easily addictive and difficult to quit, with withdrawal symptoms including cravings and heavy extremities. Heroin is a leading drug in killing addicts, particularly when combined with substances such as meth, fentanyl, or cocaine.


  • 6. Cocaine: Cocaine is a highly addictive stimulant, that works similarly to heroin in that it releases dopamine in the brain to cause feelings of euphoria, invincibility, excitability, anxiety, depression, and, eventually, cardiac arrest, stroke, or death. It is particularly dangerous when combined with fentanyl.


  • 7. Oxycodone: An analgesic popularly found in cough medicine among others, Oxycodone is thought to be one of the most misused prescription medications, due to its effects of relaxation and euphoria. It also causes cough suppression, pain relief, respiratory depression, slow heart rate, fainting, and severe liver damage when abused. The risk of death from an overdose is much higher than others on this list, particularly if combined with alcohol or acetaminophen.


  • 8. Benzodiazepines: Benzodiazepines, such as Klonopin, Xanax, and Valium, are depressors of the central nervous system used to treat alcohol withdrawal symptoms, anxiety, panic attacks, and muscle spasms. Long-term abuse can cause slurred speech, drowsiness, convulsions, slowed heartbeat, difficulty breathing, limb weakness, and coma. As they slow down the brain’s function, they are very dangerous, and this risk is increased when combined with alcohol or narcotics.


  • 9. Morphine: Morphine, the original painkiller, is an opioid that, while being incredibly useful, also causes extreme dependence. This makes it a last resort pain reliever, and the CDC has set out careful guidelines surrounding its use, particularly as 1 in 4 patients are thought to develop dependency if using morphine as a pain reliever long-term. It can cause weight loss, constipation, low appetite, increased blood sugar and immune problems as well as easy dependency, and as such has awful withdrawal symptoms.


  • 10. Marijuana: Contentious inclusion on the top 10 dangerous drugs list as it’s often thought to be harmless by many. Marijuana is an easily addictive relaxant and can change the way that our brains function, making us dependent and also reducing our functionality as a result, which can be very detrimental long term. Newer strains such as shatter and dab wax are often hundreds of times more potent that ‘traditional’ marijuana. Although there is conflicting information on whether marijuana can lead to issues like cancer, the ease of addiction and long-term memory and functionality problems can cause cognitive issues and reduced ability.


It is important to remember that these are just some of the most common dangerous drugs, that these are not the only ones, and that any drug can be dangerous when abused in large quantities over a continued length of time.


For further information on Addiction Treatment, reach out to the Worlds Best Rehabs.


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