All addictive drugs are different chemically and produce different effects. However, all drugs are same in one major way: they take control of the brain’s normal functioning. In other words, they change the brain’s response to memory, judgement, emotions, and more. Addictive drugs also share another trait: their use produces cravings. These cravings come before anything else, and can put your whole life at risk. According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), over 20 million Americans aged 12 or older used an illegal drug in the past 30 days. This represents 8% percent of the US population 12 years old or older.
What determines the classification of a drug or how addictive it is? One of the most prominent ways is the effect of the drug on the central nervous system. This is where many addictive drugs have their main effects. It has been challenging for researchers to decide which substances are the most addictive. The results have also been controversial over the years.
Factors that determine how addictive a drug is:
- Physical dependence- How easy it is for a person to become dependent on the substance?
- Psychological dependence- This includes feelings of intense irritability and depression when not intoxicated.
- Level of pleasure it provides- The higher the intoxication level, the more damage the drug does.
- The withdrawal symptoms- Generally, the more severe the withdrawal symptoms are, the more addictive the drug tends to be.
So what are the most addictive drugs? Check out our list below.
Most experts agree that heroin is by far the most addictive drug in the world. The main reason it is so addictive is the intense euphoria that rushes in after use. Basically, the brain converts heroin into morphine and activates the reward system. Therefore, first-time users can easily become addicted. Eventually, heroin addicts are not able to feel happiness or numb their pain without the drug in their system. They quickly develop a dependence on heroin to feel “normal.”
Heroin carries an extremely high risk of overdose. The composition and purity of the drug makes it difficult for users to measure doses. According to the CDC, heroin-related overdose deaths have more than quadrupled since 2010. Heroin addiction often begins with the abuse of prescription opioids. It is also easy to get and relatively low in price, which are big reasons why so many people get addicted to heroin. The withdrawal symptoms are incredibly brutal, and some users actually die from withdrawal. It is extremely difficult to beat heroin addiction on your own.
Methamphetamine – most commonly known as crystal meth – is a highly addictive stimulant. It imitates norepinephrine and dopamine. Meth use also suppresses the natural production of adrenaline. The result is a huge chemical imbalance in the brain that tricks the user into thinking they need more and more in order to feel good. Methamphetamine was developed in the early 20th century and was used in nasal decongestants. Classified as a Schedule II stimulant, methamphetamine has been prescribed to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). It is considered to be one of the most addictive drugs because of its lasting and harmful effects on the user’s central nervous system.
Crack is the most potent form of cocaine. Like heroin, crack activates the production of excessive dopamine. It has a lower purity level than cocaine. Smoking crack causes the high to reach the brain immediately, creating an intense high for the user. The effects are relatively short and only last about 15 minutes. This means that crack addicts need a big amount of the drug in order to sustain their high. It is very likely that a first-time crack user will get addicted to the drug. The potent high that crack produces makes it one of the most addictive drugs out there. After a binge, crack users may experience a crash. They feel incredibly lethargic or depressed, and they want relief from the crash symptoms. And so they use again. This is the cycle of crack cocaine use, or any drug for that matter.
Alcohol is legal, yet it is an addictive substance that is used the most in this country. According to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence:
“17.6 million people, or one in every 12 adults, suffer from alcohol abuse or dependence along with several million more who engage in risky, binge drinking patterns that could lead to alcohol problems. More than half of all adults have a family history of alcoholism or problem drinking, and more than 7 million children live in a household where at least one parent is dependent on or has abused alcohol.”
Like other drugs, the consumption of alcohol involves the release of endorphins and dopamine. The brain eventually needs more and more alcohol to get those feel-good chemicals. Alcohol withdrawal has the potential to be so severe that a person could die from it.
Methadone is an opiate medication that is used to treat heroin addiction. The irony is that its effects are very similar to heroin. Therefore, methadone is highly addictive when people use it recreationally. The use of methadone to wean off heroin use can be beneficial, but only in a clinical setting. Methadone addicts experience the same opiate withdrawal symptoms if not more severe.
Help for Dependency on Addictive Drugs
No matter what the substance involved in the addiction, it can cause isolation and pain. Do you or a loved one have a problem with addictive drugs? Life may seem hopeless. Perhaps you feel that you have nowhere to turn. You don’t have to get through addiction alone! Here at Amethyst Recovery, we have treatment options for people who suffer from substance abuse problems. Amethyst Recovery is a treatment center that cares about our patients. Surrounded by staff and patients who understand the difficulties of detox and withdrawal, you will be in good hands. It is our duty to ensure that the changes they make under our care, whether spiritual or otherwise, will ultimately help aid their recovery. Contact us to get the help you need right away.