When people think about dangerous drugs, they often visualize the big names such as heroin, cocaine, or one of the host of other illegal chemicals. These drugs have a certain foreboding mystique about them, and conjure images of damp alleyways and treacherous cartels. But for all of the attention that these illegal substances receive, the fact is that many of the most harmful drugs in our society are ones that no police office would see fit to confiscate from your home. Here are four of the most dangerous legal drugs available today.
1. Inhalants (gasoline, paint thinner, glue, etc…)
These have all been grouped together because they’re all legal products that serve a valid purpose, but contain fumes and vapors that can get users high when inhaled. While different chemicals will produce different results, there are some dangers that they all have in common. Prolonged use of inhalants can cause brain damage, as well as a host of other nasty problems such as seizures, organ failure, and cancer. Additionally, many inhalants can make the body more sensitive to the effects of adrenaline, and if a user is startled or surprised while using an inhalant, it can cause a heart attack (this is called Sudden Sniffing Death Syndrome).
Perhaps the biggest danger associated with inhalants is that the high that users get from them is very short lived. This causes many users to abuse them much more frequently than they would other drugs. These products are also generally inexpensive and easy to come by.
Terrifying statistic: 22% of those who die from Sudden Sniffing Death Syndrome had no history of previous inhalant abuse.
2. Prescription drugs
Although these are generally regulated, and thus can’t simply be purchased at your local supermarket, they are still relatively easy to come by. For many abusers of prescription medication, it all starts innocently enough: they suffer from chronic pain and need the drugs to be able to function normally.
But as their tolerance builds, they make the decision to increase their dosage without asking their doctor. Other, more intentional users will often raid the medicine cabinets of friends and family to acquire various prescriptions to abuse. Whatever the intention, prescription drug use is on the rise in the United States. Again, because the drugs involved are so different, the side effects of prescription drug abuse are hard to catalogue. They can (among other things) include mood alterations, confusion, suicidal thoughts, and fatal overdose.
Terrifying statistic: Overdoses from prescription drugs claim more deaths in America than heroin or cocaine.
Cigarettes have been around a long time, and claim about 5.5 million lives every year. To put that into perspective, only about 1.2 million American soldiers have died in battle since the start of the Revolutionary War. It’s easy to see how people of previous generations were duped into smoking; advertisements purporting the supposed health benefits of smoking were common as late as the 1960s. And it wasn’t until the 1990s that tobacco companies began to admit that cigarette smoking could be linked to various health problems. But given what we now know about the dangers of cigarettes, how is it that every day in the United States approximately 3,800 people younger than 18 years old take their first cigarette?
Smoking is not only incredibly dangerous to one’s health, but it is also expensive. That this drug is still legal throughout the world, and that people are still knowingly becoming addicted to it, is nothing short of astonishing.
Terrifying statistic: In the United States, there are approximately 7,500–15,000 children hospitalized every year as a result of second-hand smoke.
People around the world are always trying to claim that alcohol isn’t a drug, but they couldn’t be more wrong. Alcohol is a poison that attacks every major organ system, with special attention being paid to the brain and liver. It leads to irrational behavior, loss of judgment, and has been cited as being involved in more crimes than heroin. The most problematic aspect of alcohol abuse is how avidly it is supported in our culture. Even studies and papers which outline the myriad of physical and social dangers associated with alcohol are slow to suggest that people refrain from using it. They usually suggest that it be “used in moderation,” or “kept away from children under the legal drinking age.” But just because a large portion of the country depends on it for entertainment and relaxation, doesn’t mean that it’s ok to use, especially if you have a family history of alcohol abuse. There are many people struggling with alcoholism in alcohol and drug rehab centers that started out innocently taking a few sips of beer.
Terrifying statistics: Where to start? There are too many to choose from. Just take a look at this link, and then decide if it’s a good idea to hit the bar with friends.