What drugs are responsible for the most deaths each year in United States?

legalized pot

legalized potWhat drugs are responsible for the most deaths each year in United States?

Every year, illegal drugs do irreparable harm to individuals, as well as communities. Illegal drug use dulls and destroys what would be beautiful minds. Overuse can negatively impact and can take away friends and family members, leaving holes in lives that will never be filled. In the United States, drugs have been a growing problem. With every year, it seems more new people find more new ways to chemically escape reality, adding to the burgeoning problem of drug deaths each year. With the many different varieties of chemicals on the street, some take more lives than others. So what drugs are the most responsible of the bunch?

Prescription Drugs

Prescription drug overdoses are becoming more and more common. From 2001 to 2014, the rate of prescription drug overdoses has nearly tripled, from a little under 10,000 to over 25,000 in a year during the course of 2014. Prescription drugs have become readily available through a number of means and, because they are cheap and easy to take, more and more people are popping pills.

Opioid Pain Relievers

Drugs such as oxycontin and vicodin have been around for years and have gained more notoriety just the past few years, especially due to their use with sports-related injuries.  The problem here is two fold: it’s readily available and highly addictive. Opioid drugs are, as the name implies, derived from opium, which is highly addictive. This means that even people who are taking them as they are intended can run the risk of addiction. Often, people combine these drugs with alcohol, which depresses the central nervous system to a degree that certain autonomic functions simply stop working. From 2001 to 2014 opioid based deaths have climbed from just under 6,000 to just under 20,000.


“Benzos” are another drug that has been on a steady incline for deaths per year. Benzos, such as xanax, ativan, and valium, are all prescribed anti-anxiety medicine. It works by slowing the brain down and produces a calming effect. Not only are they a depressant, but they are often abused and taken with alcohol or other drugs to heighten the effect.  Since 2001, the number of benzo related deaths have increased five times, upwards of 8,000 deaths per year.

You might be asking, what about cocaine? Heroin?  Where’s the massive list of schedule 1 drugs?  Well, they’re in there too, although just not as ever present as the waves of prescription drugs that are abused.  Cocaine deaths in 2014 were right around 5,000.  Heroin, on the other hand, is responsible for an increasing number of deaths, seeing a steep rise since 2001, from just under 2,000 to approximately 11,000 in 2014, a shadow in comparison to the levels of prescription drug related deaths.  In the end, nearly any drug can be abused to the point where it can be deadly.

About Andrew Alpert

+Andrew is one of the leading DUI and criminal defense attorneys in both the state of Maryland and the District of Columbia. He blogs about Maryland DUI law, has numerous videos on the subject and has been asked to appear on national television to offer his legal opinion on high-profile criminal cases.