Drug overdoses are the leading cause of accidental death in the United States.
. In 2019, there were 70,630 drug overdose deaths that occurred in the U.S. The age-adjusted rate of overdose deaths increased by over 4% from 2018 (20.7 per 100,00) to 2019 (21.6 per 100,000). Opioids are the main driver of overdose deaths in the U.S. In 2019, opioids were involved in 49,860 fatal overdoses.1 But opioids aren’t the only drugs responsible for these tragedies. Unfortunately, prescription drugs can be as dangerous as the ones you purchase on the street. From dangerous side effects to addiction, prescription pills can be dangerous when they’re misused. Our inpatient rehab in Delaware is offering some insight on some of the most dangerous prescription drugs in the world and how they impact your body.
What Are the Dangers of Prescription Drugs?
One of the most prominent dangers of prescription drug abuse is the risk of overdose. Many patients wrongly assume that medications prescribed to them by their doctors are entirely safe. This, of course, is untrue. Doctors prescribe a safe dose of the medication and direct their patients on how to take them. When the individual takes more than the prescribed dose, mixes them with other substances, or takes them more frequently than advised, things can go wrong. Although taking prescription drugs as directed by your doctor is not unsafe, it’s any change in routine that can lead to problems.
Patients often forget that prescription drugs have the potential to cause an overdose. A drug overdose occurs when someone takes a toxic or extremely high dose of a substance. When the body is unable to process this dose, the person may display certain behavioral or physical signs. Different drugs can produce different overdose symptoms. For example, a common symptom of opioid overdose is difficulty breathing or respiratory depression, which is usually the reason behind most opioid overdose fatalities. Additionally, prescription drugs can also lead to addiction, a condition characterized by uncontrollable drug or alcohol use despite the repercussions.
If you find yourself growing dependent on your prescription medication, speak to your doctor about tapering off the drug and changing up your routine. If you or someone you know is struggling with prescription drug addiction, formal treatment may be required. At Banyan Delaware, we usually place our patients in a medically monitored detox to help them safely recover from their withdrawal symptoms before moving onto a substance-specific treatment program. We offer safe and effective addiction treatment services that can help.
7 Most Dangerous Prescription Drugs
The substances on this list include well-known medications, many of which are generally considered to be safe when taken under the correct conditions. However, all drugs can be fatal if they are abused, and taken, or combined with other substances. Keep reading to learn more about the 7 most dangerous prescription drugs on the market.
1. Acetaminophen (Tylenol)
Other names for acetaminophen include Tylenol, FeverAll, and Mapap. This drug is regularly used to treat pain and is one of the most dangerous drugs on this list because of its potential to cause liver damage, failure, and toxicity. In fact, acetaminophen is the leading cause of acute liver failure in the U.S. According to a study, about 450 deaths occur every year from acetaminophen-related overdoses, 100 of which are unintentional. The drug is also the nation’s leading cause for Poison Control Centers calls, accounting for more than 56,000 emergency room visits and 2,600 hospitalizations.2 Although the drug is generally safe to take, using it too often, taking too much of it, or mixing it with other substances increases your risk of liver failure and other problems.
Benzodiazepines, or benzos, are anti-anxiety medications that include drugs like Xanax, Valium, and Klonopin. Benzodiazepine drugs are number two on this list because of their high prescription rate and increased risk of fatal respiratory depression they can cause. Benzos are considered central nervous system depressants, meaning they relax activity in the brain and spinal cord as well as slow functions like breathing and heart rate. When taken in high doses or mixed with other depressants or sedatives, such as alcohol, barbiturates, or opioids, benzos can cause respiratory depression, overdose, and death.
Antidepressant drugs are used to treat major depression, mood disorders, and sometimes anxiety disorders, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). Common antidepressants include Cymbalta, Prozac, Zoloft, and Wellbutrin. These drugs are high on our list of most dangerous prescription medications because of their long-term side effects. These include decreased libido, insomnia, blood clots, weight gain, increased risk of internal bleeding, and more.
Common types of opioids include Percocet, Vicodin, OxyContin, and Zohydro ER. These medications are generally used to treat moderate to severe pain, although some are described to treat diarrhea and coughing. These drugs are known for being highly addictive and presenting a high rate of abuse. In the U.S. especially, an opioid epidemic has resulted in the deaths of many. This drug epidemic began in the late 1990s when the prescribing of opioids increased. Since then, more and more people have struggled with opioid use disorders and died from opioid overdoses. Of the many side effects of opioid abuse, the most fatal is respiratory depression. Like benzos, opioids reduce activity in the brain and slow processes like heart rate and breathing. Opiates can significantly slow breathing, which often results in hypoxia, a condition that occurs when the brain doesn’t receive enough oxygen. Hypoxia can lead to coma, permanent brain damage, and death.
Opioid medications are also often combined with other substances like cocaine and alcohol to increase toxicity and the high that users experience. However, this combination also increases the users’ risk of fatal overdose. Moreover, there are several kinds of illegal opioids, such as heroin and desomorphine (Krokodil), that have also contributed to the high rates of opioid addiction and overdose in the country. Our facility offers various treatment options, including opioid addiction treatment, to help individuals who are dependent on these drugs overcome their addictions, regain their health, and avoid overdose.
Methadone is a synthetic analgesic that works similarly to morphine but is longer lasting. Although it can be used to treat pain, it’s normally used as a substitute in morphine or heroin rehab programs. When used to treat these conditions, methadone is considered the lesser of two evils. However, because this medication acts similarly to other opioids, it still has a potential for abuse and overdose. As with other opioid drugs, methadone is most dangerous when combined with other substances and when users take the same dose they normally would after detoxing or stopping their use. Overdose is most common when opioid users relapse because they often take the same dose they once did before receiving addiction treatment because, at that point, their tolerance isn’t the same as it once was, leaving the body more susceptible to overdose.
Stimulants are number six on this list because they’re being abused by college students more often for their side effects. Stimulants like Ritalin or Adderall are normally prescribed to treat ADHD. However, high school and college students have begun illegally purchasing and misusing stimulants to improve their performance at school. When taken in large doses, these drugs can produce pleasure and increased alertness. However, taking prescription medications that weren’t prescribed to you has its risks.
In 2010, the U.S. poison centers reported over 17,000 cases of human exposure to ADHD medications (stimulants), with 80% of them occurring in children under 19-years-old and 20% in adults.3 Additionally, stimulants can also cause overdose and other long-term side effects, including addiction. Individuals who become dependent on prescription stimulants and are no longer able to obtain them may turn to illegal alternatives, such as cocaine or methamphetamine. We provide meth addiction treatment among a variety of other rehab programs to assist patients battling substance use disorders related to stimulants.
7. Anabolic Steroids
Anabolic steroids are synthetic or man-made variations of the male sex hormone testosterone. Otherwise known as anabolic-androgenic steroids, these are, strictly speaking, prescription drugs that treat hormonal issues, such as delayed puberty. Steroids are also used to treat diseases that cause muscle loss, such as AIDS and cancer. However, when you think of steroids, you may think of the athletes and bodybuilders who use these drugs to boost their performance or amp up their physical appearance. Several studies have indicated the risk of anabolic steroid abuse. One study, in particular, found that men who tested positive for steroids were twice as likely to experience cardiovascular disease and death than those who tested negatively.4 Anabolic steroid abuse is also associated with long-term side effects like elevated aggression and violence, as well as higher rates of violent causes of death, such as homicide and suicide. 5 Because prescription drugs can be dangerous when taken without a prescription or when they’re not taken as directed by your doctor, it’s important to use them responsibly. Make sure to only take prescription drugs that were written up for you by your doctor. Only take the dose prescribed by your doctor as they’ve directed you. Additionally, avoid taking any other medications in combination with yours unless directed by a doctor. Do not drink alcohol while taking prescription drugs.