What Kind Of Drugs Kill The Most People?

Don't do drugs, people. But if you do do them, don't overdose on 'em. But if you do overdose on 'em, make sure the drugs you're doing are weed, LSD, opium and mushrooms, and not pharmaceutical pills. That's because pharmaceuticals kill more people than any other type of drug. What?

Popular Science compiled data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's WONDER database and made the chart above. That gigantic green region? That's all the deaths related to overdosing on pharamaceuticals. That barely visible grey line (it's the thin topping on the chart)? All "other" drugs like marijuana, LSD, opium, mescaline and mushrooms. Hell, it's harder to OD on coke or heroin or drinking than it is to die from pharmaceuticals. Three quarter of the pharmaceutical deaths were from opioid analgesics (think Vicodin or OxyContin).

The data tracks the cause of death listed on the death certificate. In 2010, 80,000 Americans died because of drug and alcohol overdose. Maybe don't do drugs should be don't pop pills (of course more of the general population take pharmaceuticals than do heroin and whatever). [PopSci]


    Meanwhile marijuana is classified as a Schedule 1 Narcotic which is up there with heroin and meth.... yet has not killed a single person in the history of recorded mankind.

      So it's only bad if it actually kills you? I know more idiots whose lives have been completely ruined by weed than by any other drug. Yes, some of us can handle it but it should be clear to anyone that there are plenty who cannot. There is also fairly solid evidence that it can have a devastating effect on younger brains.

        Yes, some of us can handle it Given the amount of times you sign in a vent your spleen about every comment you disagree with, I find it hard to believe you ever smoked weed? ;)
        Then again maybe you gave it up, in which case maybe you should consider taking it up again and mellow the hell out..? Just ragging on ya dude, but you really do need to mellow out , just a little... :)

          drugs 're bad, m'kay.

          Let's all drop some shrooms.

          Only pathetic losers take drugs. I've never even thought about trying any of it. Why would I?

            Well that's one way to polarize your argument.

            Only pathetic losers judge people they've clearlynever even had any interaction with. Maybe you think the world needs.. more hate?


            Hahahaha, the only pathetic people are the ones who judge others for no reason, I hope you realise that most drug users are high functioning people, stop buying into stereotypes.

            In fact, here is a nice article http://thechart.blogs.cnn.com/2011/11/14/high-iq-linked-to-drug-use/

            I hope one day you learn not to judge people that aren't hurting you, maybe you could even do your own research and not rely on anecdotal stuff, stereotypes and what they teach you in health class at school.

              A little too defensive, don't you think? Typical. We judge others by their actions, do we not? That was certainly the motto of my high school - "spectemur agendo".

                I'm not being defensive, I do not smoke weed so I do not need to defend myself. Yes, we judge other people by theirs actions, but when their actions aren't hurting anyone but themselves then it is pointless and unnecessary.

                Is that the same school you got all your amazing Marijuana information from?

                Last edited 25/04/13 8:10 pm

                Dude, I'm a massive stoner and I've designed and programmed two successful games for multiple platforms as an indie. I also donate to charity as much as possible believing my luck in being born in a first world country makes me morally obliged to.

                I released my first game's source code because I wanted others to learn from it like I did. I don't mind people pirating my games either, my last game hit in the top 5 in several Asian countries when I set it to free as I felt the one or two dollars it was bringing in wasn't worth the dozens of people who freely downloaded it ( is a game still a game if no one plays it? ). I place a high value on sharing with the world, and that reward gives me more warm fuzzies more than a little money does.

                You can't just label all stoners as lazy, bad people. Some of us might just be real workaholics who find solace in the herb. Peace out man, (yes I'm high right now).

            Well to be a little more accurate ... like having some accuracy in a statement at all.

            All walks of life have drug takers; politicians, lawyers, judges and even some decent people like doctors, nurses, fireman, police and I.T Professionals [some licence taken here].

            Brandishing all drug takers as pathetic losers is akin to saying only decent people are Christians, wrong and pathetic.

            Also saying that you have never taken drugs makes you a liar; unless you can honestly say you have never had alcohol or been to a doctor/hospital.

            Why would you? Pain relief, not feeling a scalpel slice into your organ[s], placebo to make you believe that taking it really is fighting your flu.

            Some places actually legalise drug use for medical purposes ... but as you pointed out terminal patients must be pathetic losers after all [sarcasm].

            But thanks for playing ...

            " Only pathetic losers take drugs. I've never even thought about trying any of it. Why would I? "
            Well, for one thing Motormouth, it might have given you at least a modicum of credibility if you want to get involved with discussions regarding the use of rec drugs.
            As it stands, you just sound like someone brainwashed into believing anything someone else tells you. Or worse, the voice of government propaganda.
            If you've never tried ANY of them, you're either too feeble minded to make your own choices or too gutless to investigate for yourself.

          Heh nice one. I just think do what you want to do, really. People on weed don't really hurt anyone, if you have problems with it for some genuine medical reasons but enjoyed it then it probably still isn't recommended.. Just like everything else.

          I think @motormouth should go smoke another cigarette - because those are fine (not even listed), I know because the government told me so by allowing them to be legal and exempt from all research such as this.

          God bless them. Every one.

            Sorry, never even thought about smoking cigarettes, either. Again, why would I? Also again, if you read the article you will understand why smoking isn't listed.

        ... That is not at all what he said - and its a graph of the drugs that KILL people.. They have managed to get this into the top category purely by bundling it with the worst, based on no scientific evidence. It's propaganda, regardless of whether the drug is good or bad or not.

        Haha stop living in the 50s, there is no evidence that marijuana causes mental problems, people may smoke it because they have mental problems and want to ease it or something, like how people with mental problems drink or smoke cigarettes, doesn't mean it causes the problem in the first place... correlation doesn't = causation.

        latest stats are around 30% of our population smoke weed at least once a year, yet only 1.1% of Australians have schizophrenia.. Also, if you want more evidence, look at Japan they have one of the lowest marijuana usage rates in the world (we have one of the highest) yet their schizophrenia rates are the same as ours.

        You can have your opinion but at least use scientific evidence and not anecdotal crap, you don't know if those people turned to weed to ease the mental pain or if it caused it.... when people have mental problems and they turn into alcoholic I'm sure you don't say that the alcohol caused it.

          There is so much evidence, staring you in the face, that it's just not funny. I know at least three users very well whose over-indulgence in ganga has literally ruined their lives. It cost one guy his marriage, caused another to fail and drop out of uni (he is now in his 40s and, AFAIK, still lives like a hermit at his parents' home, working part-time here and there) and has been at least partially responsible for my best friend being on a disability pension and living like a hermit in public housing for the past 18 years.

            Have you ever thought about the why? Why people smoke weed in the first place? If we lived in a stable, properly maintained society maybe most won't even think about the "escapism" weed creates. It's not fair to judge others for doing drugs as you have no idea what the other 99.999% have been through.

              I don't care, it's not what you've been through, it's how you deal with it and these are people I know well enough to make a judgement on. Ordinary guys with normal upbringings who, like alcoholics, are unable to cope with their addiction and have allowed it to ruin their lives. And just because we are stuck with legal alcohol is no reason at all to allow other equally harmful substances to be freely available.

                Because the current policy of making it illegal works soooooo well. lmao, you are clearly clueless about this topic. You only have to look at some countries in Europe and a few states in America to see that progressive drug laws work better than tough drug laws.

            I know you are trolling, only have to look at your other comments to see that... But did you even try and read what I said? it seems you struggle to know what 'causation' and 'correlation' is, like I said anecdotal evidence doesn't cut it and you also have to take into consideration that they already had mental problems and they started smoking weed to help it? oh, of course you didn't consider that, it wasn't what you got taught in health class.

            You only have to look at stats and studies to know it doesn't cause the mental problems.

            Yes it was the weed that did that. Not their lack of willpower, poor interpersonal skills, risk taking etc.

            "Why would I take it" idk, to expand your mind...something you could seriously use from the constant rants we see on here.

              The same applies to anything we try and stop weak minds from doing. Should we allow suicide shops to facilitate those who feel they can't go on or should we try and help them get over a temporary issue so they can lead long and happy lives?

              "Expand your mind"? Right, that's what drugs do.

                Stop being so judgemental, I think you are a much weaker minded person than someone who smokes weed.

                Yes. They do.
                Bill hicks...Timothy Leary...a few fine gentlemen with some wonderful words on the topic.....you have said you have never experienced them so how can you even hope to comment on what they do or do not do. Funny that expanding your mind and beliefs is such a common comment people make about their affects if its all BS.

                Add to that the hypocrisy of your alcohol consumption mentioned below (drink non alcoholic beer if you love it so and hate being drunk) and your rant just becomes pathetic. (Like most of your whiny rants tbh)

            know at least three users very well whose over-indulgence in ganga has literally ruined their lives. It cost one guy his marriage, caused another to fail and drop out of uni (he is now in his 40s and, AFAIK, still lives like a hermit at his parents' home, working part-time here and there) and has been at least partially responsible for my best friend being on a disability pension and living like a hermit in public housing for the past 18 years.

            No way! I actually know a few people in the same situations due to alcohol and an addiction to sex. I think we should definitely make alcohol and sex illegal, because as you can see it can have a negative effect on some people. And it will be easy to enforce as well, look at how well prohibition on marijuana has worked! It hasn't spawned a dangerous multi-billion dollar black market at all.

        Actually, the evidence is not solid that it can have a devastating effect on younger brains. It might, but there is another alternative accepted by plenty of scientists: it brings forward the first psychotic episode. So people who smoke weed and are vulnerable to psychosis show symptoms earlier; that's all (again, there are a variety of views on the significance of that).

        Same with alcohol, it doesn't mean it should be prohibited; furthermore there's enough overwhelming evidence that prohibition does more harm than good!

        Agreed, it has been DIRECTLY linked with causing schizophrenia!

      Got anything to back that up with?

      I'm pretty sure lots of people have died as a result of smoking weed, either through stupid actions or lung cancer

        As the articles says, it is based only on death certificate "cause of death", so it is only going to reflect the proximal cause.

          The same way as no one dies of cancer. They die of cardiac arrest, and the cancer being listed as a preexisting condition. That doesn't mean that the cancer wasn't the cause of the death.

        Definitely true - though, this is also true of nearly anything. Hell, I went out with a mate one night, and he ate very healthy all the time, never drank etc etc.. We had some fast food, like 2L of coke and caramel sundaes (as childish as it sounds we were ~17ish), and he was incredibly hyper on all the sugar... Ended up jumping onto the back of a shopping trolley, which fell backwards causing him to hit his head on the ground and black out.

        All things in moderation.


          Sugar high unsubstantiated :)

        Maybe, but you don't need to smoke weed to get high, you can vaporise or eat it, not only that but this isn't being based of things like that, no one has ever died directly from marijuana, it's impossible to overdose.

          Which, of course begs the question, why do you need to get high at all? That's really the bit that I have never understood. Are your lives so appallingly bad that you need to escape from them, or have some kind of crutch to help you stand up to it all? To me it seems so pathetically weak.

            Why do people get drunk at all? It's the same reasons. Social reasons, for example, or making it easier to relax, or yeah, maybe it's escapism, but so what if it is? Would you belittle people who used video games or movies or reading as a form of escapism? If people are abusing it to escape then that's a bad thing but it's not the substance that makes it bad, it's the abuse.

              Unlike most people here I actually agree with most of @motormouth is saying.
              However I also agree with you @videk_2012.
              The drugs are dangerous but it's when people use them in an inappropriate manner or for the wrong reasons.

              I have no problems with people taking a drug if there are no consequences for the society ... but that rarely is the case, if the person is injured or killed it's the society that is forced to help them and by far the worse side affect of drugs is when people under the influence harm others.

              For the escapism argument, try a hobby... boardgames, reading, video games, exercise.
              Better for you less expensive and no one else minds.

                Taking drugs is a hobby :p
                It doesn't have to be expensive (you could grow your own) and let's be honest....who cares if someone else minds....Lots of people are more likely to do something if some prudish twat tells them they can't.

                Drugs are no more dangerous than anything else if used correctly...hell some are even beneficial (there's some very interesting studies on weed and cancer and coca leaves have a huge list of benefits)

                LSD was invented in a lab by scientists who tested on themselves.....this makes them junkie losers as motormouth states? Or does it make them knowledge seekers and explorers? ( still remember the australian newspaper back before it became the telegraph mark 2 listed Timothy Leary as one of the top 20 explorers ever due to his internal exploration ...that's a pretty solid acceptance of the scientific value of drugs in my opinion)

                Alcohol causes more problems than any other drug, even when you adjust for population it still causes more problems. I don't see how weed costs society, look at Colorado or Washington, it hasn't turned into chaos, every one is getting on with their life but they have no fear of being arrested. The people that are anti-drug never open their mind and look around at other countries and how it worked, though when they realise it's typical for them to still not change their mind for some odd reason.

              I wasn't excluding getting drunk, I find it just as appalling, even though it is sometimes an unintended consequence of my own beer drinking. And yes, using reading or movies or video games as a "form of escapism" seems really lame to me. In fact movies/TV and reading are things I use to relax, they work much better than getting pissed.

              "it's not the substance that makes it bad, it's the abuse" - this is exactly the same argument the NRA uses to defend their "right" to keep massive arsenals of automatic weapons in their homes.

                Is there anything that isn't lame to you? would you prefer a world where everyone is like you or something? it's like you think that everyone who isn't you is a loser or something... it's pathetic.

                It's totally different to the NRA, guns are used to kill OTHER people, drugs aren't.

            Why do you need to watch tv? why do you need to sit on the internet and troll? why do we need to do anything but physical activity, eating and drinking water?

            If you sat down, tried to open your mind and actually thought about it, you would get your answer.

            Stop judging people, not everyone has to be like you, they aren't hurting you. You need to learn not to judge people.

            Because there not content with the easy boring thing that is called life... Stuck in ya box you poor fella

        was going to say this, I love how dope smokers always high horse about how "soft" their drug is, I smoked weed all through high school and into my 20s so I am speaking from experience when I say I don't think there is anything soft about it.

      Not true. Marijuana has been linked to several cancers, including lung cancer. While it may be practically impossible to overdoese, there are deadly secondary effects.

    Usually it's because people don't realise they shouldn't take pain killers and alcohol.

    It can depress their respiratory system to the point where they stop breathing in their sleep.

      This is actually less true than you might believe, at least in my opinion. It is actually quite difficult unless you are especially sensitive to such things, to depress yourself to that level. It's definitely possible - but you pretty much could not do it by accident, in my opinion anyway...

        In my experience (in emergency healthcare, ED/prehospital) it definitely is possible. We're not talking "Oh I've taken my opioid and now I'm going to have 2 drinks," we're talking "YEAH LET'S GET WASTED!" style drinking, which is unfortunately way too common. If you depress the CNS enough that a person can't maintain their own airway or stops breathing normally or entirely, and nobody does anything about it, it's not overly difficult to never wake up. Of course it does vary between individuals, but to suggest it's "quite difficult" isn't accurate either. Opioids and alcohol shouldn't be mixed.

    No faith in this - gunja listed in Other.... Green ain't ever killed no one cept some hick farmer when a bale crushed his peanut skull....

    If it could be measured, pharma's would kill far far more....

    The chart seems to indicate the opposite to the authors take on it

      The chart says "pharma's" kill the most and that's the author's take on it. The author and the chart also both say that "other" including cannabis kill hardly anyone.

      The story says nothing about its effect on basic comprehension though.

      Nope... reread it. And congratulations on smoking weed. I really needed to know that you and every other internet user does

        The way he constructs basic sentences would have been a give away...

    So is this chart not counting cigarettes? I mean nicotine doesn't kill per se, but its usual form of administration is surely the number one killer? Or did i miss something?

      I thin they're looking at specifically OD'ing by the drug. Personally I know of a lot of friends who have had car accidents whilst on marijuana and/or mushrooms. which if they counted indirectly, would increase said figures above.

    I'm fairly sure those drugs at the top of the graph are killing the most people? Pharmaceuticals are at the bottom.

      Its a growth chart. The values at the bottom that are increasing in size are higher in number than the thinner lines at the top. The graph is measured using the number of total deaths by all drugs and the colours layered on top determine the increase or decrease of specific drugs.
      Things at the top are smaller than the larger bottom value. The thickness of the colours are the distinguishing the difference.

    The graph, although accurate, can be slightly misleading. It doesn't take into account the fact that a significantly higher number of people use alcohol and pharmaceuticals than heroin, cocaine and others. Deaths per substance users, rather than deaths per people, would be a better example.

    If someone is high on drugs and walks onto a freeway, getting hit by a truck - is the cause of death the truck or the drugs? We need another study - blood screens [or whatever] showing if people were taking drugs at time of death.
    Drunk drivers would figure prominently, I suspect: which then skews the results away from pharmaceuticals.
    I'd also like to see a comparison of tar in marijuana vs tobacco: which is more likely to give you lung cancer in the long term?

      Tobacco is clearly more likely. Jury is still out on whether or not weed does actually give you lung cancer at all.

    Who would have thought the second worst is a drug called "unspecified"

    So funny that ones who smoke the most understand the way that chart works the least. Sometimes there is a correlation.

    TIL Motormouth is the result of propaganda from the baby boomer generation.

      Yep, it's sad, everyone I come across with views like his are from that generation.

    Everyone should try acid. at least once in their life.

    What's wrong with you people? The graph is of deaths per 25,000 of population, not of consumers of that specific drug. You don't need to have studied formal statisics to know that a drug with a small number of users might (hypothetically) kill %100 of users and it would show up as a "thin grey line" on the graph. The point is we have not learned which drugs are most likely to kill you when you take them, just which ones kill the largest number of people from the sample population in the measured year. So please feel free to ignore all the advice about which drugs to take based on the graph ... that advice comes from people unable to reason logically.

    We all require medicine at some time or another so we get our box of pills and usually the first thing we do is disregard the information leaflet inside, sure it says on the box when and how many we should take per day etc but I'd wager not many of us would bother to read the inside leaflet explaining side effects etc I think we all need to be better educated on what we are actually taking and what affect it could have on us, so take the time and read the leaflet, we might understand a bit better what is going into our bodies

    I want the #HTCOne for its: Design

Join the discussion!

Trending Stories Right Now