The UK’s Most Deadly Drugs (Not What You Think)

New research conducted by the UK residential rehab provider, Abbeycare Foundation, has unveiled the five drugs responsible for the highest rate of fatalities in the United Kingdom. 

This article delves into the startling statistics and provides insights into the dangers of these substances.

(However, it fails to mention alcohol and tobacco, so I’ve added a bit about them at the end of the article.)

1. Cocaine

Cocaine takes the dubious honour of being the most lethal drug in the UK, with a staggering 29.2 deaths per 1,000,000 people in 2021. This deadly rise is even more concerning when we look at the gender-specific data. 

Between 1994 and 2021, females experienced a harrowing 459% increase in deaths from cocaine poisoning, while males saw a 340% increase. The signs of a cocaine overdose include chest pain, anxiety, and tremors. 

Combining cocaine with alcohol escalates the risk of a stroke by elevating heart rate and blood pressure.

2. Antidepressants

Surprisingly, the second spot is claimed by antidepressants, which were responsible for 21.1 deaths per 1,000,000 people due to drug poisoning. 

Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), commonly prescribed for conditions like depression, anxiety disorders, and OCD, may seem harmless when taken as prescribed. 

However, they can also cause toxicity. Symptoms of an antidepressant overdose range from mild, such as nausea and blurred vision, to severe, including hallucinations, breathing difficulties, and seizures. 

3. Benzodiazepines

Taking the third position on this ominous list are benzodiazepines, with 18.8 deaths per 1,000,000 people. These drugs, often prescribed for anxiety, seizures, and insomnia due to their sedative effects, can quickly become a perilous habit as the body builds tolerance. 

Combining benzodiazepines, such as Xanax and Valium, with alcohol or pain medications like opioids can intensify side effects, leading to confusion and impaired coordination. 

It’s a reminder that even legal prescriptions can have deadly consequences when not taken with caution.

4. New Psychoactive Substances (NPS)

New psychoactive substances (NPS) occupy the fourth spot, accounting for 9 deaths per 1,000,000 people due to drug poisoning. NPS are designed to mimic the effects of drugs like ecstasy, LSD and cannabis, often containing novel chemicals. 

However, users are playing a dangerous game, as the exact composition of NPS is often unknown. Despite being commonly referred to as “legal highs,” the Psychoactive Substances Act of 2016 rendered them illegal to import and supply for human consumption. 

5. Paracetamol

Rounding off the top five is the seemingly innocuous paracetamol, responsible for 7.8 deaths per 1,000,000 people in 2021. Found in most households as a pain reliever, exceeding the recommended dosage can lead to fatal consequences, primarily liver failure. 

Symptoms of paracetamol poisoning include yellowing of the skin and eyes, vomiting, and unexpected bleeding. It’s a stark reminder that even over-the-counter medications can pose grave risks.

Alcohol and tobacco

For some reason, alcohol and tobacco were not included in the research, presumably because both are legal and not often not considered drugs.

However, both tobacco and alcohol are drugs, and are among the most deadly drugs in the world.

In 2021, there were 9,641 deaths (14.8 per 100,000 people) from alcohol-specific causes registered in the UK, the highest number on record.

And there were an estimated 191,900 deaths attributed to smoking in England in the years 2017 to 2019.

A study published in the Lancet that found alcohol to be more harmful than heroin or crack when the overall dangers to the individual and society are considered.

Least harmful drugs

Co-authored by Professor David Nutt, the former government chief drugs adviser who was sacked in 2009 following publication, the study ranked 20 drugs on 16 measures of harm to users and to wider society and found that magic mushrooms, cannabis and ketamine are the least harmful recreational drugs

The study also judged tobacco and cocaine to be equally harmful, while ecstasy and LSD were among the least damaging.

The study concluded that “the present drug classification systems [in the UK] have little relation to the evidence of harm.”

This information in this article has been provided by Abbeycare Foundation, a residential rehab provider, and reported on by The Hippocratic Post blog.

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