More than a quarter of a million people die from illegal drugs every year and more than 200 million people take them. That’s a staggering figure, but once you add alcohol and legal drugs into the mix then gets even bigger. But how many deaths from weed, alcohol, opiates and other drugs occur every year? In other words, just how many of those deaths can be attributed to the world’s most popular drugs?
On Ways-to-Die we have the answer for you. We’ve already covered deaths from everyday things and now we’re going a little less everyday and a little more taboo.
Deaths From Weed
There are no deaths from weed and weed alone, at least not when not we can be sure of. However, contrary to what marijuana advocates say, there are recorded deaths out there.
The issues with weed deaths like this is that they are often used as a copout by coroners who don’t really know what else to attribute the death to. There was a famous case like this in the UK in 2013. A 31 year old mother apparently died in her sleep after consuming the drug.
She used the drug regularly to help her sleep and when she passed, the coroner noted this regular use, the fact that it was in her system at the time and the fact that nothing else was at fault, and attributed her death to weed. It could have been the weed and this could be one of the few weed deaths in history, but it’s unlikely.
In fact, the story hasn’t even been verified 100%. It was initially published on a leading tabloid and picked up elsewhere, but Snopes has called it “Unproven”.
Deaths From Alcohol
Alcohol is a different story altogether. There may not be any weed deaths that we can say definitely happened, but there are millions of alcohol deaths. In fact, the World Health Organization has said that more than 5% of all deaths can be attributed to alcohol. This percentage drops for women but increases for men, with over 6% of all male deaths every year coming as a result of excessive alcohol consumption.
That’s not to say that 6% of men are dying from alcohol poisoning, but that’s certainly one of the issues. Other alcohol deaths result from violence, accidents, alcohol-related disease and even from tainted alcohol. This is obviously less of an issue in the United States, but it is a problem in countries like India.
Heroin deaths are far more common than deaths from any other drug. This is true in the United States but it is also true in many other countries around the world. It’s a dangerous drug, one that pulls the user in and locks them in a cycle of abuse and addiction that greatly increases their chances of an early death.
In the United States heroin deaths are on the rise (see Crime Rates). They passed 10,000 a year for the first time in 2014 and have been rising every year since. Several times more men die from heroin than women.
Deaths from Prescription Drugs
In the United States, there were close to 200,000 deaths from prescription drugs in the 16 years following 1999. This means that, in the US, you roughly have the same chance of dying from prescription drugs as you do being murdered (see Murder Rate US and Murder Rate by Country to better understand these numbers.)
Obviously, deaths from prescription drugs are higher when those drugs are opiates, strong sedatives and other addictive drugs. But there are also a lot of deaths from otherwise safe drugs like acetaminophen, as well as deaths that result from allergic reactions and extremely rare side effects.
The world is in love with prescription drugs, but it seems that the drugs don’t love us, and they have a particular distaste for 10,000+ people a year.
Deaths from Adderall
Adderall deaths are rare, but this drug has been linked to sudden death syndrome, which is worrying when you consider it is often taken by children. We don’t have exact figures on deaths from Adderall, but what we do know is that in a US study of 564 child deaths, they were 7 times more likely than not to have been taking ADHD drugs like Adderall at the time of death.
Deaths from Opiates
Opiates are very addictive and fairly easy to overdose on. Overdoses from wrongly calculated doses following relapse, accidental overdoses, liver toxicity from abuse, and more all result in a number of deaths from opiates every single year.
Most of these opiate and opioid deaths are in the US, where more than 30,000 people die every year as a result of taking these drugs.
Deaths from Xanax and Valium
Sedatives like Xanax and valium also cause deaths in great numbers. Deaths from benzodiazepines number fewer than 10,000 a year in the United States, which has the greatest percentage of abuse for these drugs.
Deaths from Ambien and Sleeping Tablets
Deaths from ambien and similar dugs number fewer than deaths from opiates and other prescription drugs. However, accidental overdose from such drugs seem to have brought about the demise of acting legend Heath Ledger, and an intentional overdose of sleeping tablet Chloral Hydrate was one of the causes of the death of Marilyn Monroe.
Deaths from Steroids
It is hard to gauge how many deaths from steroids there are because there are usually other factors involved. What’s more, they don’t kill straight away and tend to pressure the heart over time, at which point the user dies from a cardiac episode.
Like all drugs, the risk of death increases and there is a real danger of that, but actual deaths from steroids are hard to gauge.
You might consider cocaine deaths to be high, way up there. It is a strong drug after all and a very dangerous one when consumed in large doses. However, it’s not as popular as it once was and as it happens, deaths from benzos are actually greater than deaths from cocaine in the United States.
In 2015, fewer than 8,000 people in the US died from cocaine. However, that number has been greater at times in the past and there are also many other cocaine deaths around the world.
Deaths from Smoking (Tobacco)
Tobacco is one the few drugs that kills more than alcohol. Tobacco is said to be responsible for nearly half a million deaths every year in the United States. This accounts for more than 40,000 deaths from passive smoking.
In other words, as many opiate deaths and heroin deaths as there are, you are still more likely to die from secondhand smoking. Unless you’re already a full-blown addict, of course. In which case the numbers don’t apply to you.
Meth deaths are increasingly common the world over. In Australia, there were over 1500 deaths in the 6 years between 2009 and 2015, with this number rising in the years since then. In the United States, deaths from methamphetamine number over 2,500 a year.