7 Deadliest Drugs in the U.S.

Drug addiction is a worldwide issue that affects millions of people every year, with devastating consequences for not only the individual but also their families and society as a whole. While there are countless substances that can be dangerous and addictive, some are more lethal than others. The seven deadliest drugs in the United States have been responsible for countless deaths and destroyed lives. From opioids and heroin to cocaine and amphetamines, these substances have a high potential for abuse, addiction, and overdose. Better Addiction Care shares more about the risks and dangers associated with these drugs and how treatment can prevent addiction and save lives.

7 Most Dangerous Drugs in the U.S.

While all substances can be dangerous if used improperly – especially illegal drugs – some are more harmful than others. Considering the opioid epidemic and the rise in overdose deaths in the U.S., it’s important to understand the risks associated with the top 7 deadliest drugs in the country and how to find treatment programs that can help addicted individuals regain their health and sobriety and avoid overdose and death.

  • Alcohol: Alcohol is one of the most abused and deadliest drugs in the nation. It’s commonly abused for its ability to reduce inhibitions and promote relaxation. As a depressant, alcohol alters the mood and can cause side effects like slurred speech, impaired judgment, and blackouts. Intoxication can also increase the risk of injury, risky sexual behavior, and accidental death. Presently, alcohol use disorder (AUD) affects 15 million adults in the U.S., and an estimated 88,000 people die from alcohol-related problems every year.1
  • Cocaine: Cocaine is a highly addictive central nervous system stimulant that’s gained popularity in the U.S. since the 1970s. In 2017, the drug took the lives of nearly 14,000 Americans, a 34% increase since the previous year.2 The drug is abused for its ability to alter mood, produce a euphoric high, increase energy, and increase alertness.
  • Diazepam: Diazepam is a prescription benzodiazepine (benzo) that’s known for depressing the central nervous system. Similar to opioids, benzos like Diazepam can impair a person’s judgment and affect their ability to breathe. In fact, respiratory depression is one of the most common forms of death regarding benzo abuse. As of 2021, nearly 14% of overdose deaths involving opioids also involve benzodiazepines.3
  • Fentanyl: Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that may be used and closely monitored in a medical setting for the treatment of severe pain. However, in the midst of the opioid epidemic, this synthetic narcotic has become a common drug of abuse and a source of overdose deaths. Fentanyl is 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine and 50 times more potent than heroin. Not only is it used individually for recreational use, but it’s also used by illicit drug manufacturers to lace heroin and other substances, making death more likely for users.
  • Heroin: Heroin is another highly addictive synthetic opioid that’s popular for its fast-acting high. It’s commonly sold in a white powder form but may also be sold as a black, tar-like substance known as black tar heroin. 9,173 heroin-related deaths were reported in the U.S. in 2021, and nearly 75% of overdose deaths in 2021 involving heroin also involved other synthetic opioids.4
  • Prescription opioids: Prescription opioids are normally used to treat severe pain. Prescription drug abuse, especially concerning opioids, has become a severe problem in the U.S. Despite being medically controlled, drugs like hydrocodone and oxycodone are often sold illegally on the streets or over the internet for recreational use. As with opioids like heroin and fentanyl, prescription opioids can also lead to addiction, overdose, and death.
  • Methamphetamine: Another highly addictive CNS stimulant, methamphetamine is known for producing a quick-acting and short-lasting high. It targets the brain’s reward system, spiking dopamine levels to improve mood as well as increase alertness and energy.

The abuse of these substances presents different challenges and risks, including addiction. If you or someone you care about is battling addiction, our national rehab directory can help you find the most effective rehab program to make sobriety possible.

Finding Treatment With Our Drug Rehab Directory

Better Addiction Care offers a free online national directory of drug and alcohol abuse treatment facilities designed to easily connect users to the best rehab centers in the country. With the help of our experts, you can find treatment for yourself or a loved one.

For more information about our free resources for addiction recovery or to verify your insurance for addiction treatment and begin your search, call BAC today at 800-429-7690.


  1. VA News – About 88,000 people die from alcohol-related causes annually
  2. KFF Health News – Not Yesterday’s Cocaine: Death Toll Rising From Tainted Drug
  3. NIH – Benzodiazepines and Opioids
  4. NIH – Drug Overdose Death Rates
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