Drug addiction in the United States is only getting worse. 21 million Americans have a substance abuse disorder. While many are seeking treatment, there are still many more experimenting. Between the years of 2015 and 2016, overdose deaths rose by 19 percent and they’re only climbing more.
While a lot of awareness has been made about the current opioid epidemic, there are many different dangerous drugs and other substances that one can get addicted to that can have possible catastrophic effects, even substances that you normally wouldn’t think of when it comes to substance abuse. In order to prevent addiction and overdosing, it’s important to know the most addictive and dangerous drugs.
In this blog, we are going to focus on the following 17 substances that are considered the most dangerous drugs in the U.S. as well as some of the symptoms that go along with them:
Krokodil isn’t a drug you’ll find on a prescription and many resources know little about the drug. Krokodil is a homemade form of heroin, using desomorphine as the main ingredient. Other ingredients include eye drops that contain codeine and additional chemicals. Some of these chemicals can include industrial cleaners, lighter fluid, and even gasoline. While the U.S. produces krokodil, you’ll actually find this substance in countries where heroin and opiates are hard to find. Many addicts also use krokodil during desperate measures, when no drug dealer is selling heroin or heroin becomes too expensive. Because of its potent and dangerous ingredients, krokodil users don’t live longer than a few years.
Krokodil can have potentially life-threatening side effects. Some of those symptoms and side effects can include:
- Skin and soft tissue infections
- Blood poisoning
- Limb amputations
Psychedelics such as LSD are usually not dangerous or fatal. But imitation psychedelics are becoming more common and are far more dangerous. N-Bombs are at the top of this list. An “N-Bomb” is a shortened version of 251-NBOMe. Users describe N-Bombs as the euphoria you get from MDMA (ecstasy) but with hallucinations similar to LSD. The reason why N-Bombs are dangerous is that many users don’t know how to take them. They’re more potent than traditional psychedelics. Users take higher amounts and are not aware of the dangers. While N-Bombs aren’t always fatal, they are at high doses. You can also overdose on N-Bombs.
- Heart attack
- Respiratory arrest
Opioids are highly addictive and are one of the most “famous” dangerous drugs. As a result, opioids have some of the highest overdose records in history. In 2013, 33,000 Americans died as a result of an opiate overdose. Opioids work by entering the opioid receptors, reducing pain and increasing feelings of euphoria. Dangerous drugs like heroin also have this same effect. There are a number of medications under the opioid blanket, OxyContin being the most popular. Opioid addiction is scary because opiate use starts off as innocent. Opioids are prescribed after one endures surgery or is in any kind of pain. They will develop a tolerance to the pills, forcing them to take more for the same effects. This leads to addiction.
Because opioids are so easily accessible and are prescribed by doctors so often, sometimes it can be tough to spot someone that is starting to or has already become addicted to opioids. Common signs and symptoms of opioid addiction and abuse include:
- Mood swings
- Nausea and vomiting
- Slurred speech
- Erratic or irregular breathing and pulse
4. Gray Death
When opioid addiction becomes severe, many users take dangerous actions when trying to get a “high.” This is when dangerous drugs such as the “gray death” were created. The gray death is a combination of different opiates crushed together, creating a powder that is a grayish color. What makes gray death so dangerous is that every batch of the gray death is different, so you never really know what you are getting and ingesting. It usually comprises of different opiates such as fentanyl, but other drugs are sometimes added to the mix.
This drug is described as extremely potent with the ideal dosage being smaller than the tip of your pinky. Common symptoms of gray death include:
- Slowed breathing
- Respiratory depression
Many people don’t consider alcohol as a dangerous drug. In reality, though, alcohol accounts for some of the highest addiction levels and fatalities. There are approximately 2,200 yearly deaths due to alcohol poisoning. What makes alcohol poisoning so dangerous is that it isn’t always sudden. Long-term drinking causes damage to the liver, heart, pancreas, and stomach. This can all be fatal. Alcohol poisoning isn’t the only dangerous factor either. Alcohol also causes reckless behavior such as drunk driving, which not only puts the drinker at risk but innocent bystanders as well.
While it might be tough to spot someone suffering from alcohol abuse, especially in social settings, it is important to look for certain symptoms. Those include:
- Irregular breathing
Cocaine is one of the most commonly used drugs. It’s an addictive drug made from the coca plant. Cocaine, also called coke, is a white powder that’s snorted. Cocaine is also popular as a party drug as it will typically leave the user awake and wired. For many users, the crystal form of cocaine, called crack, is their choice of drug. Crack is smoked and inhaled through the lungs. It’s more potent and even cheaper than cocaine. This is why crack is far more addictive than cocaine.
While cocaine is a popular party drug used in social settings, it can be very dangerous and even potentially lethal if abused. Some side effects of prolonged cocaine use include:
- Heart disease or stroke
- Nasal complications
7. Bath Salts
Bath salts are a new kind of drug but their use is increasing exponentially. Bath salts are easy to find and don’t usually show up in drug tests. Unfortunately, they’re also addictive. Bath salts are a crystalline powder that users either swallow, inhale or inject. Their crystal powder appearance gave them the name “bath salts.” Common street names for bath salts include:
- Cloud Nine
- Lunar Wave
- Vanilla Sky
- White Lightning
Bath salts are completely manmade and are classified as stimulants. They’re made from cathinones and cause a similar reaction that you get from amphetamines. This not only makes them very addictive but also incredibly dangerous due to their synthetic makeup.
Symptoms of bath salts include, but aren’t limited to:
- Extreme paranoia
- Violent behavior
- Kidney failure
- Chest pain
- Breakdown of skeletal muscle tissue
Flakka is similar to bath salts. Flakka is made from cathinone. It’s a manmade substance that’s extremely addictive. Flakka looks like a pale-colored crystal. Users either eat, snort, inject and even vaporize the flakka crystal. Flakka is considered a stimulant, but there are many dangerous side effects.
Flakka causes hallucinations and a “Flakka trip” is common. Negative effects of a flakka trip include paranoia, violence, and self-harm. Flakka horror stories have appeared online and even on the news. Flakka is nicknamed “the zombie drug” because of the violent behavior it can cause, as commonly seen in zombie movies. Users reported harming and murdering others, even eating their flesh.
In addition, other common symptoms include:
- Heart attack
- Kidney failure
While not addictive, ecstasy is one of the most common party drugs in the world. Ecstasy is a man-made stimulant and a slight hallucinogen that gives users an intense sense of euphoria and an extreme energy boost. It’s used at parties because it makes music and even lights more pleasurable. On ecstasy, you feel closer to those around you and activities such as sex feels better.
This reaction comes from the release of multiple “feel good” brain chemicals. This includes serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine. While ecstasy overdose is uncommon, it does come with withdrawals. It many cases, users need an ecstasy detox program to help with the uncomfortable symptoms.
Since all of your feel-good chemicals are released at one time, it’s common to feel depressed when the ecstasy effects wear off. The user may also feel confused and can develop sleep problems. In addition, the prolonged use of ecstasy can result in significant health and medical issues including:
- Memory loss
- Blurred vision
- Muscle cramping
- Liver, kidney, and/or heart failure
While we discussed many variants of heroin, it’s important to discuss the famous white heroin powder that the user injects in their veins. As mentioned previously, heroin activates your opioid receptors. This causes an intense euphoria like no user ever felt. This makes heroin highly addictive.
On the street, heroin tends to be cheaper than prescription opioids, making it a popular dangerous drug for people who are looking to continue to get the “high” that the opioids provided but either can’t afford the more expensive prescription or no longer have a prescription themselves.
Because of the demand for heroin, it is becoming less and less common to find “clean” heroin. In order to produce enough of it, and maximize profits, heroin can be “cut” with other drugs, making it more dangerous and increase the chances for an overdose. In addition, due to the way that heroin interacts with the body, it can be easy to overdose on the dangerous drug as your body increases its tolerance.
To recover from heroin addiction, detox is required. Common signs that someone might have a heroin addiction include:
- Dry mouth
- Warm flushing of the skin
- Nausea and vomiting
- Severe itching
LSD is a non-addictive hallucinogen. LSD use was at its highest in the 60s and was even used by famous figures such as The Beatles. Despite that being over 50 years ago, LSD is still one of the most common hallucinogens used today. LSD is commonly called “acid” because it’s made from the acid found on rye and other grains. LSD causes an intense hallucinogenic “trip.” The user will see, hear, and feel things that aren’t real. An LSD trip can last as long as 12 hours.
While LSD isn’t a dangerous drug and very few fatalities have been reported, it does bring with it some unwanted side effects including:
- Dilated pupils
- Increased heart rate
- Loss of appetite
- Dry mouth
Another non-addictive but potent hallucinogen are mushrooms. Not all mushrooms cause hallucinogenic effects. You only need to eat peyote and psilocybin mushrooms. Most users eat the mushrooms straight, but some brew them in a tea or add them to other foods.
Mushrooms are different than LSD because the hallucinogenic effects come from psilocybin. Your hallucinations aren’t as intense and don’t last as long, but users state they start tripping as soon as 20 minutes after eating mushrooms.
Like LSD, the most dangerous side effect is a “bad trip.” A bad trip includes:
- An altered perception of time
- Not knowing what is real and what isn’t
- Intense anxiety
Methamphetamine, commonly known as meth, is a highly addictive drug. Meth looks like a white powder that’s made from a combination of pseudoephedrine and toxic chemicals. Users either swallow, snort, inject or smoke the drug. Meth is a stimulant that immediately gets you high. The high doesn’t last long and users take more than they should. This is why meth is very addictive and detox is required during meth rehab.
Chronic use of meth can result in:
- Weight loss
- Skin sores
- Dental issues
- Extreme paranoia
Spice is a mixture of herbs and chemicals. It was once sold legally and available over-the-counter. However, it is now banned in many states. Many users did not know of the dangers, often mistaking spice for marijuana, which looks similar to spice but is far safer and is legal in many states.
Like marijuana, spice activates the cannabinoid receptors. Unlike marijuana though, which is natural, spice is synthetic, making it more dangerous and more potent.
Side effects of Spice include:
- Myocardial Ischemia
- Heart attack
- Psychotic and/or violent behavior
- Renal failure
Salvia is another drug that was once sold legally but is now banned. Like marijuana, salvia is a plant. Unlike marijuana though, it’s far more dangerous than the marijuana plant. Salvia is a mild hallucinogen. Users experience changes in vision, mood, emotions, and body sensations. The hallucinations only last 30 minutes but start as quickly as five minutes after smoking it.
Even though the hallucinations are short, they’re some of the most intense someone will ever experience. That’s why salvia is the most potent naturally-occurring hallucinogen, even more, potent than mushrooms.
Salvia isn’t as dangerous as other drugs, but it can impact your memory and even your ability to retain knowledge. Some other common physical side effects of saliva include:
- Irregular heart rate
- Loss of physical coordination
- Slurred speech
- Paranoia and/or psychosis
Nightshade is one of the deadliest plants in the world. Those who want a drug fix can take scopolamine, a drug derived from nightshade. Due to its toxicity, many people use this drug as a quick way to murder others.
Scopolamine forces you to lose all self-control. The user will experience intense hallucinations and can even get violent. However, the user must take a low dose. One gram of scopolamine can kill as many as 20 people!
Other potentially dangerous side effects include:
- Acute psychosis
- Anticholinergic effects such as dry mouth, blurred vision, and dizziness
17. Cough Medicine
While many people take over-the-counter cough medicine to treat a cold, others use cough medicine to get drunk. This is especially popular among teens who can’t buy alcohol. The “drunk” sensation comes from codeine. Ingesting high amounts of codeine can make someone feel drunk and woozy.
The most popular type of cough medicine abused is Robitussin, which is where the street term “robotrip” derived. If you listen to hip hop that was popular in the 90s, you probably heard of the term “purple drank.” And no, we’re not talking about grape juice. Purple drank is a combination of soda water and cold medicine.
Ingesting too much codeine has dangerous side effects. These include:
- Respiratory issues
- Heart failure
- Blurred vision
The Most Dangerous Drugs: Don’t Use These Substances
From heroin to cough syrup, there are many deadly and addictive drugs. It’s important to know not only the effects these dangerous drugs can have on one’s system but also to know some of the symptoms and side effects that come from ingesting the substances.
While the best way to prevent drug addiction is to know the most dangerous drugs and to avoid them, it is also important to spot when someone is going through substance abuse issues in order to get them the help they need, especially when it comes to dangerous drugs like cocaine and ecstasy.
Knowing what to look for and identifying possible substance abuse can save either your life of the life of a friend or loved one. After all, even though drug use hasn’t slowed down, education is the key to live a healthy life.