The opioid epidemic is an ever-growing struggle: nearly 70,000 Americans died from a drug overdose last year, according to data released by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. While prescription painkillers and other street and illicit drugs have certainly fueled the rise in opioid deaths, they are not the only dangerous drugs. Many other drugs, including some seemingly-innocuous over-the-counter medications, can be dangerous. The opioid epidemic is on this list of the most serious public health issues facing America today.
Drug overdoses are now the leading cause of accidental death in the United States. More Americans die of drug overdoses than in car accidents, which are also frequently the result of substance abuse — nearly half of fatal car accidents involve alcohol or other substances.
To better understand the likelihood of Americans dying from using a specific substance, it is important to also get a better understanding of the substance itself — its properties, interactions with other drugs and alcohol, and how often it is used.
The vast majority of people who drink alcohol in the United States — more than half of Americans — do so responsibly. Millions of people also use pain medication every day and do not stray from their prescribed dosage. And while overdoses from prescription opioids are a major factor in the opioid epidemic, opioids are essential to many Americans who rely on them to function.
The double-edged sword of risk and reward in prescribing opiates is common to many other drugs as well. Approximately half of all people in the United States use at least one prescription drug on a regular basis.
24/7 Wall St. reviewed 25 of the most dangerous drugs and drug mixtures based on side effects and death rates tracked by the federal government, as well as potential risk of drug combinations measured by medical information organizations and web sources such as MedScape, WebMD, and the American Medical Association. These substances span well-known controlled substances, infamous street drugs produced in unsafe conditions, and lethal combinations of otherwise safe medications. Many of these drugs, when taken on their own and under the correct conditions, are considered to be generally safe. They are only seriously deadly when combined inappropriately with other drugs.
However, no drug is perfectly safe, and some widely-prescribed and popular over-the-counter medications are more likely to pose a risk to more Americans than rare drugs with a higher rates of dangerous side effects simply because they are more accessible. Some of the drugs on this list are a broad category of medication with similar effects and risks, while others are a single formula. According to doctors, opioids are not the only known effective pain treatment. Here is a list of nine non-opioid treatments approved by physicians.
Click here to see the 25 most dangerous drugs
Click here to read our detailed findings and methodology
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