Drug War Myth #726,001: Cocaine Is Deadlier Than Aspirin

Posted: May 31st, 2009 | Filed under: cocaine, drugs, media bias | 3 Comments »

Our government and the mainstream media implicitly and explicitly justify the war on drugs by perpetuating the myth that drugs are extremely deadly. Illegal drugs do kill (just like ladders, cars, and swimming pools kill) but (1) most of the fatalities stem from the criminalization that forces drugs into the black market (see heroin example at this post), and (2) even this risk is greatly exaggerated.

For example, the deadliness of cocaine and Aspirin are in fact comparable. A survey of intranasal cocaine administrations during surgery (in amounts comparable to recreational use) found it to be fatal .005% of the time. A study found that non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, e.g. Aspirin, Ibuprofen, Aleve, will be fatal to .08% of patients taking them for at least two months.

Critics will point out that these are two different metrics that do not provide proper comparison (two months of usage vs. one administration). My response is that (1) these are the only metrics available and (2) my point is not to establish one is safer than the other but to show that – contrary to popular perception – their deadliness is similar.

To see how cocaine fatality statistics are inflated go to “Billy Mays’ Corpse Gets Trampled by Cocaine Hype.”


1. Robert Arthur, You Will Die: The Burden of Modern Taboos (2008), p. 333.
2. Martin Tramer, et al., “Quantitative Estimation of Rare Adverse Events Which Follow A Biological Progression: A New Model Applied to Chronic NSAID Use,” Pain, 2000, 85:169-182.
3. Linda Wong & Bruce Alexander, “‘Cocaine-Related’ Deaths,” Journal of Drug Issues, Winter 1991.

3 Comments on “Drug War Myth #726,001: Cocaine Is Deadlier Than Aspirin”

  1. 1 Ramon said at 9:23 pm on August 25th, 2010:

    Why don’t you use the LD50? What animal was undergoing surgery? Or was it humans? If so, it couldn’t have been a controlled study; it would be unethical. Also, how statistically significant are these results?


    MSDS of aspirin:

    Oral, mouse: LD50 = 250 mg/kg

    Mallinckrodt’s MSDS of Cocaine from

    Oral Mouse LD50: 96mg/Kg

    Just so you don’t feel like I’m totally against you


    From erowid.com

    LD50 Dog 140mg/kg oral
    LD50 Rat 105mg/kg IV

    By this measure it looks like Cocaine is just as bad as aspirin.

    Note that this is only lethal dose. This is acute toxicity. Not long term, how someone on this or that behaves, and not addictiveness or economic cost.

    Salt will kill you if you eat too much, but it is essential.



  2. 2 Administrator said at 6:24 pm on September 1st, 2010:

    Ramon, the study reviewed cocaine usage in nasal surgery on humans. Cocaine was commonly used as an anesthetic in eye and nasal surgery before being replaced by similar synthetics that don’t share its stigma-laden name.

  3. 3 Andrea said at 4:58 pm on March 16th, 2011:

    Im currently a student in the field of medical assisting. Cocaine is still used in the medical community today. in the field of ear, eye, and nose surgery , just to name a few. it’s actually quite popular and well reveired because it’s not only an anesthetic, but also a vasoconstrictor. there isn’t any other drug that combines the two properties. it’s also used as an anisthetic for cuts in children. There was a study done by WHO and UNICRI , the results of the study were never published due to “public” opinion at a meeting, but the results that were released via an early Review kit showed that there is no sugnificant harm from cocaine taken in moderation, and that alcohol and tobacco have a much larger affect than that of cocaine. American UN members didn’t like the results of the study because it conflicted with the view of cocaine that was already around, that they had the results of the study “burned” . you can check it out on the TNI website. or there’s an article entitled ” six horsemen ride out” .