How Can Drugs Kill You?

Certain drugs, such as prescription medications, can be highly effective in treating the most severe and uncomfortable conditions and symptoms. However, even medications like opioids, along with illegal substances, can lead to a variety of dangers, including death. Drug abuse is a serious problem that affects millions of people around the world. Many substances have the potential to cause a range of adverse effects, including addiction, organ damage, and overdose. When used in excess or combined with other drugs, these effects can quickly become lethal.

Better Addiction Care is a national rehab directory that helps people find the best rehabs for recovery. Below we share how drugs can kill you because we want to spread awareness of the importance of treatment.

What Drugs Kill the Most People?

The drugs that kill the most people vary depending on the area, as substance use patterns and availability may differ widely. However, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), the drugs that are generally responsible for the most deaths globally are tobacco, alcohol, and opioids.


Worldwide, tobacco is responsible for over 7 million deaths annually, with smoking being a leading cause of lung cancer, heart disease, and other health problems.1 Tobacco use can not only lead to nicotine addiction. It’s also known for causing problems like respiratory disease, increased risk of cancer, cardiovascular disease, reduced fertility, dental problems, and pregnancy complications (if smoked first-hand or inhaled second-hand). Long-term tobacco use can be life-threatening and cause death due to these various health effects.


Alcohol is also a major contributor to global mortality, accounting for an estimated 3 million deaths per year due to liver disease, cancer, and accidents related to alcohol consumption.2 Alcohol is considered deadly when consumed in excessive amounts because it acts as a depressant on the central nervous system. When consumed in large quantities, alcohol can cause a variety of health problems, including impaired judgment, respiratory depression, alcohol poisoning, liver damage, increased risk of accidents, and increased risk of diseases. Due to these dangers, it’s crucial for individuals who struggle with alcohol abuse to seek out professional rehabilitation.


Opioids are a class of drugs that are also referred to as narcotics because of their painkilling properties. They’re known for having a high potential for abuse, addiction, and overdose. Opioids include both prescription drugs like oxycodone and illegal substances like heroin. While prescription opioids are safe and effective when taken under the direction of a healthcare professional, they can contribute to a severe addiction if misused or abused.

Opioids are known for posing a variety of health problems and risks, including respiratory depression, overdose, addiction, and withdrawal. Opioids that are purchased illegally may also be contaminated or laced with other substances, which can increase the risk of complications and overdose. Many people also misuse opioids by mixing them with other substances, which also poses the risk of overdose and death.

How Drugs Can Kill You

Drugs can kill you in a variety of ways, depending on the substance in question and the manner in which it’s administered. Some drugs are more lethal than others, and the risk of death increases when drugs are used alongside others, such as combining alcohol with prescription opioids.

Some major ways that drugs can kill you include:

  • Cardiovascular problems: Deadly drugs like cocaine and methamphetamine can greatly contribute to cardiovascular problems, such as increased risk of heart attack and stroke.
  • Infection: It’s common for infections such as HIV and hepatitis to occur in individuals who use drugs intravenously, such as heroin users.
  • Liver and kidney failure: Long-term or chronic use of drugs, such as alcohol and opioids, can lead to liver and kidney damage as well as organ failure and death.
  • Psychosis: Some drugs, especially PCP, MDMA, and ketamine, can cause psychosis, which can contribute to risky behavior, suicidal behavior, and death.
  • Seizures: Certain drugs – particularly bath salts, synthetic cannabinoids, alcohol, and benzos – can cause life-threatening seizures.
  • Overdose: Overdosing on drugs, especially depressants, can cause respiratory depression and contribute to coma or death. This is especially true for opioids like heroin and fentanyl, which can reduce breathing to the point of death.

It’s important to only use prescription drugs as directed by a healthcare provider. You should also seek out medical attention immediately if you or a loved one is struggling with drug-related health problems. For those battling addiction, our drug rehab directory can connect you with the best rehab facilities in your area.

For many people, a major roadblock is the idea of having to find treatment on their own. BAC’s national rehab directory makes this process easier by allowing users to search for treatment according to their location, needs, and even insurance. If you want to get started on this journey for yourself or someone you care about, call Better Addiction Care today at 800-429-7690 or go online to verify your insurance for addiction treatment.


  1. CDC – Diseases and Death
  2. Statista – Key facts on alcohol-related deaths worldwide as of 2022
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