The Deadliest Drug According to Science
A recent European study set out to find the deadliest drug. This in and of itself isn’t groundbreaking. These types of studies are conducted numerous times each year by government agencies and scientific institutes alike. What makes this particular report noteworthy is the method researchers used.
The study is called “Comparative risk assessment of alcohol, tobacco, cannabis and other illicit drugs using the margin of exposure approach.” This margin of exposure approach is where things get interesting. It basically means that scientists identified the deadliest drugs by figuring out how much users normally take and comparing that data to how prevalent the use of a particular drug is. They also factored in the LD50, or minimum lethal dose of popular drugs of abuse.
The authors of this report, Dr. Dirk Lachenmeierand and Dr. Jürgen Rehm, believe this is the most accurate way to identify how deadly particular substances are. For example, alcohol is deadlier than meth because more people are exposed to alcohol and ingest it in higher quantities.
This type of common sense approach, mixed with the latest scientific data and analysis, seems like a sane way to approach studying drug abuse. We can only hope that policymakers in the United States follow Europe’s example. A sane and rational examination of drug addiction, overdose, and recovery may just lead to effective measures being implemented.
Now, without further ado, find out what the deadliest drug is below!
What’s the Deadliest Drug?
According to this new data, the deadliest drug is, drum roll please…alcohol. This should come as a surprise to no one. Alcohol abuse is widespread, seemingly innocuous, and actually very dangerous.
Clocking in at number two are cigarettes. Again, this isn’t much of a surprise. What’s interesting is the remainder of the report. For example, when Lachenmeierand and Rehm analyzed probability, they found that heroin was actually the second deadliest drug, ahead of even cigarettes.
Find a breakdown of other key results below:
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Limits of New Information
The new research does carry with it a few caveats. It’s important to remember that Dr. Lachenmeierand and Rehm studied the lethal dose of drugs in animals, not humans. Usually the LD50 of a substance is higher in humans. Still, it’s important to remember these tests were not done on humans.
Also, chemical interactions weren’t taken into account. That is to say, researchers didn’t study what happens when someone drinks, does cocaine, and does heroin. When chemicals like these are combined, their LD50’s are, generally speaking, lowered.
Despite the fact that alcohol is deadlier than other drugs in practical terms, individual experiences with illegal and “hard” drugs differ. There are environmental risks associated with illegal drug use. These include purchasing impure drugs, police behavior, and lifestyle factors like unsafe injection practices and risky sexual behavior.
This study was based in Europe and on European research. However, Dr. Rehm had the following to say, “if you talk about the US or Cananca, we would project similar findings. For Latin America, results may change” (Vice News). Dr. Rehm believes this is due to the similarities between “high-income countries.”