The Most Dangerous Drug in the World

Posted: December 9, 2013 in Policing, Research
Tags: , , , , , ,

Several months back, I responded to a question on Quora about what I thought was the most dangerous drug in the world. Instead of just one, though, I settled on several drugs, partly out of confusion over some of the definitions. The answer seem to hinge on the definitions of the words “dangerous” and “illegal.”

“Danger” could be defined as the most physically harmful to the body if used chronically, the most likely to cause immediate serious injury or death, or the most damaging to society overall . Each definition may lead to a different answer.

Image courtesy of Victor Habbick /

Image courtesy of Victor Habbick /

Likewise, “illegal” may mean that the drug itself is not authorized by law, or it may mean that an individual is using a legal substance illegally. An example might be someone who takes a prescription medication that belongs to someone else.

Hairsplitting aside, though, here are my thoughts on the most dangerous drugs in several categories.


According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, meth is dangerous on several levels. It has serious and long-term negative effects on brain function and behavior, and is linked with increased violence on the part of some abusers. The manufacturing process also results in toxic chemicals and explosions, which both pose a threat to the larger community. On that basis, meth is probably one of the most dangerous drugs overall.

It’s manufactured anywhere and everywhere (which is one of the issues that makes it dangerous), and it’s relatively inexpensive (about $100 to $200 a gram, depending on where the buyer lives). About 1,000 people a year die from methamphetamine overdose in the U.S., while other die from the side effects, which are graphically illustrated in the series of images below.

In addition, while significant gang violence is associated with the drug trade generally, much of the violence on our southern border is attributed to the meth trade specifically. Guadalajara has seen significant violence related to competition between Latin drug gangs looking to service North America’s approximately 400,000 regular meth users.

Crystal Meth – The Hardest Drug

So, in terms of strictly illegal drugs as we might commonly accept the term, methamphetamines seem to lead the way.

Counterfeit Prescription Medications

Counterfeit prescription drugs have also become particularly dangerous as their availability has expanded via the internet. It’s estimated that as many as 100,000 people die each year world wide from taking counterfeit drugs (a total of approximately 250,000 deaths are attributed to illegal drugs around the world in any given year).

Are Fake Prescription Drugs Killing Us?

Most prescription medication is made outside of the United States (both legal and illegal), and the costs vary considerably depending on the drug itself. There are significant problems to overcome in dealing with this aspect of the issue because countries cannot even agree on basic definitions, such as what constitutes a substandard or even outright counterfeit medications.

Alcohol and Tobacco

Alhough we’re specifically discussing  illegal drugs, this video makes the case for alcohol and tobacco as being the most dangerous due to their wide availability, their effects on the body, and the damage done to society, even though they are both legal.

So, what’s your opinion on the world’s most dangerous drug?

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