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May Wilkerson May Wilkerson

Graphic: Which Drugs Actually Cause the Most Harm?

This infographic ranks the top 10 drugs according to the damage they cause to individuals and society. Are you surprised that alcohol is Number One?

15 Substance

Even though heroin and cocaine often get the worst reps on film and TV, it’s actually your old buddy alcohol (yes alcohol is a drug) that causes the most collateral damage to society. Researchers from the UK (the data is based primarily on findings from this 2010 Lancet paper) have evaluated different drugs based on the harm they cause (to the user as well as to other people) and assigned a “harm score” to each substance. And Florida-based 12 Keys Recovery Center have compiled the findings into an infographic (below), which colorfully illustrates society’s 10 most harmful drugs and the varying types and degrees of fallout they cause.

As you can see, alcohol is among the few drugs that poses a much greater risk to others than to the user themselves. Heroin is responsible for the most overdoses, whereas booze causes the most accidents and suicides. And while alcohol leads to the most family problems, meth ends more relationships. Ecstasy (or “Molly”) has the lowest harm score on the list, whereas alcohol causes the most overall harm (by far), followed by heroin and crack cocaine.