Dr. Trautman Explains: What Are the Most Dangerous Illegal Drugs?

In the United States, according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), 6.5% percent of the populated aged 12 and older—61.2 million people—used illicit drugs in 2021 and, of those, more than 9.2 million people misused opioids.1 In that same year, 106,000 people died from a drug overdose.2

Substance misuse and addiction affect every corner of America, taking a heavy toll on families, friends, and communities across the nation. The illicit drug landscape remains shrouded in misinformation and stigma. Yet, understanding the nature and effects of these powerful substances is crucial for harm reduction and individual safety and well-being. In this blog, we’ll go over the most dangerous illegal drugs and emerging drug threats.

What Are the Most Dangerous Illegal Drugs?

Any drug has the potential to be dangerous. However, certain illegal drugs are inherently more dangerous than others, like fentanyl and other synthetic opioids. American Addiction Centers’ Dr. Trautman gives a run down on some of the most dangerous illegal drugs.


Emerging Drug Threats

While the scope of the illegal drug landscape is particularly fraught with risk, there are emerging threats that are making their way into drug supplies. These drugs are incredibly dangerous and pose a serious threat.

Xylazine (tranq dope). This potent veterinary sedative has not been approved for use in humans. However, illegal drug manufacturers have been adding it to supplies of heroin, fentanyl, and other opioids. Xylazine has a range of potentially deadly effects, including sedation, difficulty breathing, dangerously low blood pressure, necrosis, and death.

Furthermore, because xylazine is not an opioid it is not responsive to naloxone, the overdose reversal drug. Individuals who use illegal opioids cut with xylazine are at an increased risk of fatal overdose.

Isotonitazene (nitazene or ISO). Isotonitazene is a synthetic opioid more potent than heroin and morphine. Its potency is similar to fentanyl which means that unsuspecting users may fall victim to a deadly overdose. As more focus and awareness is brought to the fentanyl crisis, IMFs are turning to other potent narcotics, like ISO, to boost profits.

Get Help for Drug Addiction Near Dallas, TX

If you or a loved one is struggling with drug addiction, there is help. At our inpatient rehab near Dallas, TX we use evidence-based addiction-focused healthcare to get people on the road to recovery and living the life they deserve.

Call us today at to learn more about your treatment options or to start admissions. Our compassionate navigators are on hand to guide you every step of the way and to answer your questions about what to expect, how to pay for rehab, or using your insurance for treatment. Recovery is possible, so call or text us today.

Was this page helpful?
Thank you for your feedback.

American Addiction Centers (AAC) is committed to delivering original, truthful, accurate, unbiased, and medically current information. We strive to create content that is clear, concise, and easy to understand.

Read our full editorial policy

While we are unable to respond to your feedback directly, we'll use this information to improve our online help.

A New Life Awaits
Start your recovery at our spa-like facility in the Dallas-Ft. Worth area. Holistic therapies, chef-prepared meals, and LGBTQ+ support are among the many features of our premier drug and alcohol treatment program.