Humans love drugs – a lot. We’ve been using them for almost as long as we’ve walked the planet. Shrooms and other natural hallucinogens? Tens of thousands of years. Booze? Almost as long. Opium? At least seven millennia. And weed at least five.
Of course, not everyone gets high on the same substances. Meth is more popular in the United States than anywhere else, while heroin does best in Eastern countries, Europe, and New England. Cocaine is a favorite of South Americans, while Africans enjoy Khat.
So what are the world’s top choices in intoxication? Here’s a list of the contenders, starting at the top.
First there are the legal recreational drugs, some of which are perfectly harmless and some of which could stop your heart. Tea and coffee are the most popular, followed by liquor and tobacco.
The first two aren’t likely to do you any harm, even in excess. The amount of caffeine needed to kill an average adult is very high and would have to be consumed very fast. Booze and cigarettes, on the other hand, collectively kill hundreds of thousands of Americans each year.
Not surprisingly, weed is the world’s favorite illicit recreational drug. It’s increasingly legal in many places, though it remains much less popular than alcohol or nicotine. It’s also generally considered to be one of the safest drugs by a wide margin. Almost every other drug of choice, aside from shrooms and LSD, has the potential for fatality, while weed has never killed anyone. It’s also less addictive than almost any other drug.
This potent, deadly derivative of opium has long been one of mankind’s favorite intoxicants. It dulls pain and wipes away emotional worries while inducing powerful euphoria and pleasing physical effects. But the potency is also this drug’s greatest danger, since even a slight miscalculation in dose can kill. Addiction is also a major problem. A bloody heroin epidemic is currently sweeping the Northeastern United States.
It’s no surprise coke is high on the list. It’s a rare choice compared to weed, but it’s still easy to find and relatively cheap, at least in rock form. It’s a bit safer than heroin, but it does kill, it’s highly addictive, and its power to destroy lives is obvious to anyone living in a large American city.
At this point in the list, the drugs become rarer. A fair number of people have tried ecstasy, also known as MDMA and Molly, but regular use is relatively uncommon. Ecstasy typically isn’t deadly, but it has that potential, usually by way of dehydration or excessive water consumption resulting from the dehydration. Ecstasy frequently contains meth, so addiction is possible. Effects include intense euphoria and a powerful emotional boost.
Amphetamines, including simple amphetamine (“speed”) and methamphetamine (“meth”) are potent stimulants most common in the United States, where they thrive in the Midwest and other rural areas. Once the province of rock stars, amphetamines are now a highly addictive scourge of small communities. They provide euphoria and a surge of energy but can also lead to tooth loss, skin picking, psychosis, and death.
There are a number of strong sedative depressant pills, known as downers. They include barbiturates such as Seconal and benzodiazepines such as Valium. The barbiturates in particular can be deadly and are sometimes used in cases of assisted suicide. Benzos also carry risk but are generally believed to be fairly safe in the short term. Many downers are addictive, including benzos and barbiturates.
LSD and magic mushrooms are possibly the safest recreational drugs available, at least in terms of their raw fatality rates, which are zero, and their limited side effects. Surprisingly, then, they aren’t especially popular – or easy to come by. Shrooms have been a human delicacy since at least the Stone Age, while LSD is a very recent concoction brewed in a 20th century lab. Neither can kill, though they can induce vicious anxiety episodes and, occasionally, negative flashbacks.