Posts Tagged ‘Drugs’

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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This week’s video is a little different than those I’ve shared in the past. Usually, the idea is to keep things light at the end of the week. This go around, though, I wanted to share the trailer for a simply fantastic documentary by Eugene Jarecki, called “The House I Live In.”  It deals with the consequences of the U.S. “War on Drugs,” including the overuse of incarceration.


Click for more info about LEAP

I have to say here that I have a complex relationship with this topic. I have family members who spent their entire law enforcement careers  engaged in the battle against drug trafficking. To my mind, they are heroes for the sacrifices they made and the dangers they faced dealing with the dangerous thugs and narco-terrorists involved in the drug trade.


It’s probably time to stop declaring war on things. The U.S. government declared war on drugs in the 1970s, and 50 years on we’re still struggling with many of the very same issues that gave rise to the call to war in the first place.

Drug war

While the statistics get a little slippery, nailing and jailing doesn’t appear to have had an appreciable effect on rates of addiction.  This approach has also become intolerably expensive as the years have worn on. As a result, there’s now some bipartisan political agreement that the war on drugs – as well intended as it may have been – has not achieved its expected outcomes.

The funniest political video ever, but with a serious message

None of this is to say we should throw up our hands and walk away, though. The point is to learn from what’s gone before and then develop more rational policies that reduce the harmful effects of drugs on society, without going bankrupt or locking up millions of people unnecessarily in the process.

Is Decriminalization the Answer?

Other countries, such as Portugal, have taken a very radical path to this end (PDF). Decriminalization in that country, which some claimed would lead to widespread increases in drug use and abuse, as well as increases in crime, has actually had a beneficial effect on the drug problem and related social ills. According to the Cato Institute’s assessment:

[D]ata indicate that decriminalization has had no adverse effect on drug usage rates in Portugal, which, in numerous categories, are now among the lowest in the EU, particularly when compared with states with stringent criminalization regimes. Although postdecriminalization usage rates have remained roughly the same or even decreased slightly when compared with other EU states, drug-related pathologies — such as sexually transmitted diseases and deaths due to drug usage — have decreased dramatically. Drug policy experts attribute those positive trends to the enhanced ability of the Portuguese government to offer treatment programs to its citizens — enhancements made possible, for numerous reasons, by decriminalization.

What About Drug Courts?

Do Drug Courts Work

Short of decriminalization, the U.S. has been increasingly turning to specialized criminal courts to address the problem of drug abuse. The infographic at right describes three key outcomes achieved by Drug Courts in recent years:

  • Lowered drug use
  • Reductions in criminal behavior
  • Less expense

Those would seem to be the exact goals a rational drug policy would want to achieve.

Now it’s your turn. What are your thoughts on drug wars, drug policies, decriminalization, and drug courts?

Comment below or vote in this week’s poll!

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