Overdose Risk: The Easiest Drugs to Overdose On
Drugs That Pose the Highest Overdose Risk
In 2018 alone, nearly 70,000 people in the U.S. lost their lives due to drug overdose, according to The National Institute on Drug Abuse. Between 1999 and 2018, more than 450,000 people died as a result of prescription or illicit opioids alone. When considering overdose rates involving other substances, including alcohol, it’s no wonder why the medical community views substance abuse and addiction as a problem of epidemic proportions. Opioids may be among the easiest drugs to overdose on, but they are not alone. The following are among the most dangerous and easiest substances to overdose on.
Narcotic prescription painkillers can be highly addictive, but opioid-based pain meds can also be deadly and are among the easiest drugs to overdose on. Perhaps the deadliest of the group is Fentanyl. This synthetic-opioid is produced to treat severe pain and is 50 to 100 times as powerful as morphine. In the course of the last several years (since 2017), the Centers for Disease Control reports that deaths from synthetic opioids are up by about 10%. Moreover, illegally produced Fentanyl has entered the street market. It is often mixed with other drugs such as cocaine or heroin, making it potentially deadlier still.
Other prescription painkillers such as Vicodin, Percocet, and OxyContin are also associated with overdose deaths. Rates of overdose deaths have remained relatively stable in many states that have passed legislation to curtail over-prescribing practices of these drugs. However, don’t let the ‘stable’ overdose rates fool you. Prescription painkillers have become more difficult to buy on the street in comparison to more easily obtained–and cheaper–opioids like heroin. The high-risk potential of overdose and prescription painkillers remains undiminished.
In recent years, deaths related to heroin have risen sharply. One reason already mentioned–individuals addicted to prescription painkillers who can not easily obtain them have made the switch to heroin. One report states that 80% of heroin users had previously abused or been addicted to narcotic painkillers like OxyContin. Also, cheaper forms of heroin like black tar heroin have entered the U.S. illegally and flooded various cities. With heroin easily obtainable and cheap, it’s no wonder that overdose rates have climbed. Heroin affects the brain’s reward center where it produces a euphoric high. Unfortunately, this pleasure center lies in close proximity to the part of the brain that controls breathing. As a depressant, heroin slows the respiratory system down; too great a slowdown leads to overdose and, in many instances, death.
Although cocaine produces a euphoric high, it is unlike heroin or prescription painkillers. Cocaine is a stimulant while the other mentioned drugs are depressants. Rather than slowing down the respiratory system, cocaine speeds up various aspects of your body, including heart rate. People feel more alert and highly energized after taking cocaine, but too much of this substance can quickly lead to heart attack, stroke, convulsions, and seizures. Some people think the opioid epidemic has eclipsed cocaine and its dangers, but in recent years, overdose rates with cocaine have increased. This drug remains as dangerous as it ever was.
Methamphetamine or meth is also among the easiest drugs to overdose on. Like cocaine, meth is a stimulant. However, while cocaine is produced from a plant, meth is a synthetic drug that is frequently produced in illicit ‘meth labs’ using highly toxic chemicals. This drug speeds up bodily processes like heart rate and the brain. During a meth high, users feel highly alert, but they may not sleep or eat for days on end. Many meth users experience paranoia and other dangerous side effects. During an overdose, the user may suffer a heart attack or stroke. In roughly 20% of meth overdoses, other drugs also contribute to health emergencies.
Let’s be clear though. While these are statistically the easiest drugs to overdose on, any drug can be deadly when a person takes too much of it or mixes it with alcohol or other drugs.
If you or someone you love abuses drugs or alcohol, JC’s Recovery can help with our faith-based and evidence-based programs. With treatment, a person can protect their health and achieve long-term recovery. Call or visit us to learn more about our program offerings.