What is the #1 most harmful drug?

Surely, the most harmful drug is the most deadly one… but it’s not that simple.

Most people will point to drugs that are notorious for ruining lives, causing severe health problems and fatal overdoses. Crack cocaine? Heroin? Crystal meth? If you thought it was any of those, then the answer may surprise you. Despite their highly addictive properties and the havoc they wreak, it isn’t any of those narcotics that top the list.

To find out the answer, first, we must answer this question: “What is dangerous?” Well, in terms of drugs, there is no simple definition. It depends on a multitude of things. According to a scientific study on harmful drugs, there are sixteen parameters of harm that must be considered. They include dependence, the likelihood of mortality, impairment of mental functions, physical injury, criminal activity, loss of tangible socioeconomic things (house or job), and the economic cost to a country. The detrimental effects were divided into two broad categories: harm to users and harm to others. The study also took into account the drugs’ direct and indirect effects on the user. For example, an indirect effect is death due to HIV that was acquired from using contaminated syringes, while a direct effect is death from an overdose.

The study ranked twenty drugs based on these criteria. The top five most harmful drugs are:

  1. Alcohol
  2. Heroin
  3. Crack Cocaine
  4. Methamphetamine
  5. Cocaine

Yes, you read that correctly… alcohol, a completely legal substance, is rated as the number one most harmful drug in the world. Although heroin and crack cocaine came in as close runner-ups, alcohol tops the list primarily because of its harm to others. Every year there are over 3 million deaths caused by the detrimental use of alcohol…that’s 6% of all annual deaths.

Millions of people indulge in the word’s most dangerous drug every day… little do they know how harmful it can actually be. Alcohol abuse has been proven to cause a plethora of health problems, such as liver disease, cardiovascular complications, and neurological disorders. Sexual assault and violent activities are more likely to occur when alcohol is involved. Drunk driving accidents are the leading cause of motor vehicle homicides. And these risks become more serious with repeated use.

If you need help recovering from alcohol addiction Discovery Institute is here to help you through every step of the way.  We understand how important getting sober is for you and your loved ones.  While the process may seem daunting at first, just know that you don’t have to go through it alone.  Discovery can help you get your life back—the road to recovery is only a phone call away: 1-800-714-2175.

Reviewed for Medical & Clinical Accuracy by Dr. Jeffrey Berman, MD

Dr. Jeffrey Berman, MDDr. Jeffrey Berman is a psychiatrist in Teaneck, New Jersey and is affiliated with Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital. He received his medical degree from State University of New York Upstate Medical University and has been in practice for more than 20 years. He also speaks multiple languages, including French and Hebrew.

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