Many drugs, whether they’re illegal or legal, make the user feel a sense of pleasure. However, they can also be lethal. You often hear that abusing drugs long-term is dangerous to your health, or that even just one toxic dose can kill you. But do you ever wonder exactly how they can kill you?
A Lethal Combination: Alcohol and Heroin
The majority of people who unfortunately overdose on drugs are usually under the influence of more than just one. Back in 2003, DAWN (Drug Abuse Warning Network) claimed that fatal overdose cases had an average of 2.7 toxic drugs in their system at the time of their death.
More importantly regarding these cases, no single drug is generally present during a lethal dose. Instead, it’s the synergistic impact of combining the drugs themselves that’s lethal. For instance, a toxic combination of alcohol and heroin can be particularly dangerous. Alcohol and heroin both suppress breathing, but by two different means.
Heroin is the primary cause in more overdose deaths than any other drug. Most of the deaths ultimately lead to respiratory failure. Just one lethal dose of heroin works to increase the inhibitory result of GABA, which causes the body to breathe slow and eventually just stop.
Alcohol overdoses primarily occur in two ways. First, alcohol can induce unconsciousness. At greater levels, it can additionally cause the victim to breathe much slower or stop altogether. Next, the body automatically tries to get rid of the excess alcohol by regurgitating. If someone vomits while unconscious, they can easily inhale the vomit and disrupt their breathing or even choke to death.
Under normal circumstances, a person’s breathing is under control, balanced, and regular. But, under the influence of alcohol and/or heroin, the regular impulse to breathe is suppressed.
Other Lethal Drugs
Dangerous drugs including Oxycontin, Vicodin, Codeine, and Opana are being used more and more. They’re sold by abusers seeking a high, frequently with fatal consequences.
Cocaine and Other Harmful Stimulants
Prevalent stimulants like cocaine and meth (methamphetamine) are quite often deadly when taken in larger doses over time, or quite damaging to the body at the very least.
Cocaine can kill people in many different ways, typically by heart attack, brain damage, and hyperthermia (overheating). After taking just a small dose, you’re chances increase by 25 times more than normal to experience a heart attack.
Amphetamine, Meth, and Ecstasy (MDMA)
These are also popular drug stimulants. They all work to increase levels of the hormone norepinephrine and the neurotransmitter dopamine, potentially producing a heart attack, brain damage, and overheating. Since ecstasy is often used in crowded, high-energy clubs and bars where people are tightly packed and dancing, the most common cause of an ecstasy overdose is overheating.
Prescription Drugs Commonly Involved in Fatal Overdoses
Benzodiazepines, a group of medications typically known as anti-anxiety drugs, are notorious for causing death in some cases. This particular group of medications is documented in nearly a third of all prescription overdose deaths. Opioid meds, pain relievers like Vicodin, contribute in some part to over 75 percent of the fatalities.
How Many People are Dying from Prescription Medications?
Almost 20 percent of all Americans have taken prescription medications for non-medicinal purposes, 75 percent of whom are likely abusing them. Although prescription medications are legal, the general abuse of them is an ongoing silent but deadly epidemic, which contributes to the reason why today’s American medical system has turned into the leading cause of injury and death in the U.S. The sad but true details of how people die every day from prescription drugs include everything from adverse drug reactions to medical errors to unnecessary procedures that ultimately caused more harm than good.
Premature deaths due to drug overdose have been steadily on the rise for more than twenty years and are known as the leading cause of death in the U.S. today. Every day in the U.S. alone, 114 people perish due to a drug overdose, while another 6,700 plus are treated in various emergency rooms across the country for abusing drugs, whether they’re legal or illegal.
If you suspect a loved one is abusing drugs, or perhaps yourself, there’s a great deal of help available.
Addiction recovery centers have given millions of people back their lives.