From potentially deadly alcohol to seemingly-innocuous caffeine, all drugs carry with them some inherent dangers. Whether it be the risk of addiction, psychological effects or negative health consequences, drug abuse of any kind can lead to some serious complications. However, illegal drugs present even greater dangers that can not only put users in trouble with the law but seriously jeopardize their health. There are certainly no lack of illegal drugs, and each presents their own unique set of dangers.
Marijuana is the most commonly-used illegal drugs and most people assume that is not as dangerous as other substances. While there may not be as many immediate dangers, scientists will tell you it's not entirely harmless. Many people claim that smoking marijuana is much less harmful than smoking tobacco and though it might not carry as high a risk of lung cancer, it still has its own dangers. In fact, a 2007 study conducted by researchers in Canada recently found that marijuana smoke has higher levels of the chemicals ammonia and hydrogen cyanide than tobacco smoke.
Many people also believe that marijuana is much less addicting than other drugs, making it significantly less dangerous. This belief is predicated on the fact that the drug is not physically addicting. Though fewer marijuana users become addicted to the drug than people who use cocaine, heroin or even alcohol, that does not mean it is without its own addicting qualities. At a chemical level, marijuana activates the opiod receptor much like more addicting drugs, Psychology Today states. Furthermore, there is a growing body of research that points to the fact that marijuana may be psychologically addicting.
Though much less common than marijuana, cocaine presents much greater danger to a person's health. According to WebMD, around 14 percent of adults in the United States have tried cocaine at least once in their life, with about one in 40 using the drug in the past year.
Cocaine is very fast-acting and while it provides users with sense of alertness and an elevated mood, it comes with a number of serious physiological dangers. Perhaps most significantly, cocaine use puts an added strain on the heart. One of the drug's most substantial effects is that it raises a user's heart rate which can cause people have no history of cardiovascular problems or heart disease. The reason lies in the fact that using cocaine causes damage to the hearts smallest blood vessels and also can cause troubles with the way the sympathetic nervous system affects the heart.
The effects cocaine has on the heart can impact other areas of the body as well. Most seriously, cocaine tends to constrict blood vessels in the brain, which can cause everything from strokes, to seizures to bizarre and violent behavior.
Almost as dangerous as the physical effects of cocaine are the psychological issues. According to WebMD there's no set frequency of use that can deter dependence and the withdrawal symptoms can range from difficulty concentrating to thoughts of suicide and depression.
Although heroin use has been on the decline among teenagers, it is still considered to be one of the most dangerous drugs in use today. The numbers are relatively small - about 3.8 million people have said they've used heroin in their lifetime while only about 560,000 people used it last year and about 338,000 using in the last month.
Despite the fact its use is less widespread than some other drugs, the dangers of heroin are some of the most pervasive in society. Heroin abuse can lead to a number of serious health complications ranging from bacterial infections in the blood vessels to liver and kidney disease. However, perhaps the most serious risk associated with heroin use is the transmission of HIV and Hepatitis B or C due to sharing needles.
In some areas of the United States, HIV/AIDS is becoming a greater problem than in Africa and part of the problem can be tied to heroin use. A recent study conducted at San Francisco State University found that about 18 percent of 2.5 million people across the world who acquired the disease were injection drug users.
Often regarded among the most addicting substances there is, methamphetamine abuse certainly has a long list of dangers associated with it. A 2009 survey found that 1.2 million people above the age of 12 had used meth in the year prior to being asked with about 1.6 percent of 10th graders reportedly using the drug.
One of the most serious consequences of using meth is the fact that is highly addictive and withdrawal symptoms may be worse than any of the other effects the drug might have.
Like many other illegal drugs, regular use of methamphetamine raises the risk of heart-related problems. However, it takes much less of the drug to cause an overdose and there's no way to know what a "safe" amount is.
Meth's most well-known dangers come from long-term use and are all readily apparent just by simply by looking at user. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, most regular meth users experience significant weight loss and dental problems. Furthermore, it can take its toll on the brain as well and can lead to everything from violent behavior to erratic moods. Much like heroin, meth users are at an increased risk of HIV and Hepatitis.
Outside of the health complications of illegal drugs, they can also land users in prison for a considerable amount of time. Being convicted of drug possession can bring about a sentence ranging from one to three years for first time offenders (depending on the substance) and repeat offenders will of course be treated more harshly.