Drugs don’t just get people high, they often progress straight from a high to death. As drug deaths rise, new, more dangerous drugs continue to emerge. This list will alter your mind by making you more aware of just how deadly or strange some of the increasingly abused and concocted substances are becoming. We profile a chemical rogue’s gallery of deadly and deceptive substances prowling the streets of our modern world. For some of these substances, any dose is an overdose. This list is dedicated to those trapped by substance abuse and to the workers striving to help those affected.
This terrifying new drug originates from a modified base consisting primarily of Codeine, mixed with noxious chemicals. The effects are horrendous, mimicking flesh-eating disease and bringing on gangrene, withering and ulceration causing limb loss, flesh decay and death. Apart from real photos of users, scenes from The Walking Dead offers the best possible “artist’s renderings” of the effects. The problem has a significant root in Russian and Ukrainian drug-using circles, associated with many cases of serious body damage and death stemming from its highly caustic, psychoactive and diverse toxicological characteristics.
The composition of Krokodil makes it corrosive to the body. Thus it not only can trigger mental problems, cognitive difficulties and addiction, but it acts as a solvent and inflammatory agent in the body. Flesh damage and circulation problems frequently precede infection, which is just what happens with Krokodil use. The name for the drug “Krokodil” is a reference to the reptilian look that green, dying flesh that dries out and becomes scaled appears to be after use of this improvised drug. Media reports have exaggerated its occurrence in the United States, but its use in Russia, Ukraine and nearby places is presenting a bonafide health hazard.
9. Fentanyl & Related Substances
Fentanyl is a drug that is more like a plague among drug users than a sought after substance in some cases, being extremely dangerous but used to cut more prevalent drugs, often with deadly effects. Other times, fentanyl — a pain-killing opioid — is deliberately concentrated and abused for its narcotic properties. Huge numbers of deaths are occurring, notably in Canada and other parts of North America, from overdoses on fentanyl, which has an extremely low threshold for causing a deadly overdose compared to more “normal” drugs, prompting a degree of panic.
As if this were not bad enough, the related but even more deadly Carfentanil is becoming available for misuse, many times more potent (100 times as strong, to be exact), and often used to tranquilize an elephant in the veterinary and wildlife management professions. The incredibly potent drug has caused a rash of fatal overdoses in Western Canada in recent months as noted by the BC Coroner’s Service. In one case, a kilogram of Carfentanil was intercepted at a Canadian port of entry. Canadian officials have been working with foreign representatives to attempt to halt the movement of illegal synthetic opioids across the border but efforts have not stopped the deaths.
A deadly synthetic containing Iodine, among other things in its chemical formula, Smiles — which is an acronym for simplified molecular-input line-entry system — is a drug that has caused a wide range of symptoms including seizures and other neurological disturbances, as well as mental problems and death in adults and teenagers who use the “designer drug.” The drug is used in multiple forms, including liquids and powders. The truly horrific consequences use of this drug can bring about stem from its initially quasi-legal status.
Law-skirting drug pushers and chemists have attempted to jump ahead of controlled substance legislation by creating so-called designer drugs like Smiles, but the new and untested chemicals can be extremely dangerous. Smiles is now illegal, having been documented and described, but it is still out there. Deaths can result from overdose, while mere use can provoke extremely dangerous medical complications. In one case, a user was found hitting their head on a hard paved surface, foaming from the mouth and dying two hours after being found. Extremely serious hallucinations may also cause fatal accidents as users misjudge their surrounds.
Triggering dopamine release, Flakka is a strange synthetic drug that is used at the peril of anyone who tries it. The side effects can include breaks with reality and related chaotic and destructive behavior, as well as euphoria, aggression and death. Coming off the drug carries a risk of depression in the process. The drug known as Flakka on the street came into existence in the south of Florida, where it has cut a swath through the lives of individuals lured by another high. The drug is a synthetic that mimics the effects of the Khat plant, a primarily African and West Asian drug of natural botanical origin, but is much stronger and more unpredictable. In fact, Flakka is similar to methamphetamines in its effect, yet even stronger.
A wide variety of disturbing biological effects may crash down on those reckless enough to use it, including crazed behavior, euphoria and high levels of anger. The drug is highly addictive, and is capable of causing serious damage to the human body beyond temporary or lasting mental disturbance. Tissue damage can result due to metabolic stimulation as the body temperature rises in users. Kidney damage is one of the worst possible effects.
6. Synthetic Marijuana
The risks of real marijuana are as real as air and water, but are still incredibly mild compared to the truly horrific dangers posed by the fake stuff. So-called “synthetic marijuana,” often called “Spice” or “K2,” is a true nightmare for users and medical professionals alike. Consisting of various chemicals sprayed onto dried plant material, the product has ended up for sale in places as diverse as gas stations and alcohol retail outlets.
While it might not seem like a “hard” drug, the doctored garbage can have effects that are ultimately just as deadly. The effects of “synthetic marijuana” use can include paranoia, death, blindness, heart problems, incoherence, aggression, panic attacks and loss of consciousness. Sneaky labelling techniques include branding the material as “incense, not for consumption” to try to avoid prosecution for selling the dangerous product. Exposure can be made much worse by the synergistic, or combined greater effects of multiple ingredients attacking the body together, while the random nature of artificial, so-called synthetic marijuana makes treating medical complications much harder for medical staff compared to a more “normal” drug overdose. Clearly, all that can be said is don’t smoke the spice!
5. Cactus Abuse
If some shady characters approached you and asked about wanting some cactus, you might not be receiving an offer for a new houseplant. Getting you hooked on a strange, natural — but potentially dangerous — drug might be the real goal. Not at all like an artificial drug, like many others on this list, the chemical derivative of certain psychoactive cacti, known as mescaline, present a drug problem common to southwestern climates. San Pedro Cactus and similar cacti are spiky plants that could get you higher than a tree and sicker than a dog should you mess with them.
Mescaline can cause disturbing symptoms including a loss of identity and perceptual disturbances. While cacti extracts have a history of use by native tribal healers, shamans and the like, mescaline has become a drug of abuse for those seeking an escape from reality. With the use of mescaline comes some very concerning side effects. Rather than being physically addictive, mescaline tends to trigger psychological dependence, as well as physical tolerance, causing increasingly large doses to be required to create the same psychoactive effect. Rehab involves both controlled withdrawal and efforts to resolve life circumstances that could provoke use and dependence.
4. Rubbing Alcohol
Normal alcohol, known as ethanol, will get you plenty drunk and comes in the ingredients of familiar drinks like beer, wine and whiskey. But for some people, too much whiskey is not the problem. Another alcohol, never intended for human consumption, is the drug of choice, with truly grave consequences faced by users. Medical grade and industrial grade isopropyl alcohol products are commonplace, prized by various industries and consumer groups as disinfectants, surface cleaners, hand sanitizers and wound care products.
With a potent smell, the chemical (often known as rubbing alcohol) is strong and will get a person “drunk” fast but with serious medical complications. Just a small amount may unleash a horrific host of symptoms, with blindness, brain damage and death among the awful possibilities. Abusers may huff or drink the noxious substance that was never intended for human oral consumption. Part of the problem may stem from a lack of knowledge about alcohol, and that there are different alcohols — some drinkable in moderation, and others that if consumed are almost as deadly as rat poison.
3. Snake Venom Abuse
Being bitten by a venomous snake and taking an overdose of a dangerous drug are often viewed in the same light as being two deadly fates for a person to meet. But the two problems are also almost never related to each other. So it might come as a surprise to most people that certain “drug addicts” are taking terrible risks by abusing snake venom as a drug. While snake venom might seem to be the last thing one would select as a “recreational substance,” it is a fact that snake venom has been tapped for its properties that are comparable to opioids in some respects.
While use of snake venom as a drug is rare, it is nevertheless a substance abuse problem that has prompted some rather unusual scholarly research. In a most bizarre case that exemplifies the rare problem, a young man from Rajasthan, India had been using opium among other substances and had turned to relatively small doses of cobra venom, inflicted through bites. His “drug dealers” were nomad snake charmers, whom he recruited to assist him in getting bitten, causing bizarre “highs” and a range of nasty physical symptoms. While he could have easily died, researchers helped him to “get clean” from snake venom.
2. Extreme Caffeine Abuse
The health benefits of a cup of coffee are well known, and tea and Coca-Cola (which has not contained any cocaine for years and years) offer drinkers a little caffeine as a mild stimulant. Yet caffeine functions as a powerful drug in concentrated doses and with the availability of more and more powerful caffeine products, the chance of an overdose looms larger. Take certain sports drinks and even more concentrated caffeine tablets, and the opportunity to abuse caffeine presents itself readily. Even more dangerous is caffeine powder that has been refined to purity. Caffeine lowers appetite, increases heart rate and respiration, and serves to wake people up.
But too much caffeine can cause a heart problem known as ventricular fibrillation, which happens when the lower heart chambers vibrate instead of completing regular contractions. With the abnormal heartbeat, cardiac arrest follows. As of 2018, 92 deaths have been documented as a result of caffeine overdose, where users abused caffeine products with fatal results. Caffeine overdoses are believed to have been suicides in about a third of the overdose cases.
DiPT is a banned street drug that is known for potentially causing hearing damage. DiPT (5-methoxy-N, N-diisopropyltryptamine, often abbreviated as 5-MeO-DIPT) is a prime example of why hallucinogens can be extremely dangerous. Considered an auditory hallucinogen, the drug functions in a manner somewhat comparable to LSD, but is known to produce auditory hallucinations to a greater degree compared to visual ones. Classified as a Schedule I controlled substance by the DEA, DiPT is not accepted for medical use in the United States but for sanctioned research projects such as tests on animals.
Users have been known to snort, inject or smoke the drug for a high that is shorter than that produced by LSD. With frequent use comes increasing potential for long term damage. Given that the drug messes with people’s auditory perceptions, long term damage affects similar human senses. Users have reported long term hearing difficulties following use, while cases of King-Kopetzky syndrome have occurred. In this disorder, people struggle to separate background noise from distinct acoustic occurrences.