What Are the 7 Most Addictive Drugs?

The use of many types of drugs or alcohol runs the risk of abuse and dependency. Yet there are some that top the charts as the most addictive drugs. Studies show that well over 20 million Americans struggle with a substance use disorder, and unfortunately, the numbers grow daily. 

To combat the growing epidemic, rehab programs and facilities work to ensure that treatment is available to all suffering. Because of the upward trend in the abuse of addictive drugs, recovery programs have been put into place around the country. The more that is understood about dependency and addiction, the more focus can be placed on rehab and recovery efforts. Especially, when it comes to the 7 most addictive drugs that can haunt individuals and their loved ones. 

What Makes Drugs Addictive?

A substance use disorder is defined as a chronic illness that must be constantly maintained to avoid relapse. Fortunately, using the treatment resources available at rehab will reinforce the deterioration of the connection the brain has made regarding drugs. As an addiction develops, the functioning and communication centers of the brain are constantly adapting. From the very first encounter with addictive drugs, the brain begins to make changes in order to process it. 

As these changes occur, the ability to control the urges of dependency will soon be lost. With most addictive drugs, this can happen very quickly, making for a speedy transition into a lifestyle of substance abuse. Using these highly addictive drugs can mimic the feeling of reward, ensuring that it is a behavior that an addict desires to repeat. 

Within the brain, there is an area identified as a pleasure center. When an addictive drug produces pleasurable feelings, the brain creates a detour, learning that using makes the addict feel good. This information encourages the use of addictive drugs, despite the harm being done. However, once the effects have worn off, the exact opposite begins to happen. As quickly as those pleasurable feelings came about, so will the unpleasant ones. 

The unfavorable feelings are recognized as the beginning of withdrawal. Especially when abusing the most addictive drugs, an addict will try to use again. And they will usually do so, as soon and as often as possible. Some substances may take a few encounters to prompt this behavior. However, other highly addictive or even illegal substances can expedite this process making them especially hazardous. 

The 7 Most Addictive Substances Identified

There are 7 substances that are notorious for being the most addictive drugs. Often, from the very first experience, some individuals develop the desire to continue using these substances. They quickly act in the nervous system, on the neurotransmitters of the brain, reinforcing the desire to entertain regular use. This is when addiction develops. The list of these seven most addictive drugs include: 

  1. Cocaine
  2. Heroin
  3. Alcohol
  4. Nicotine
  1. Caffeine
  2. Methamphetamine
  3. Prescription Medications/Painkillers

That’s not to say that other substances do not share this quality. In fact, with regular use, almost any substance can lead to physical or emotional dependency. A substance dependency can develop simply with the intention of a one-time experiment gone wrong. Or alternatively, it may occur through attempts to self-medicate. When suffering with an underlying illness, such as depression, anxiety, or even trauma, some refuse treatment and rely on drugs. 

During rehab, screening for psychological illnesses that may coincide with addiction can be performed. By gaining a better understanding of what the most addictive drugs are, could hopefully serve as deterrence. However, if you or someone you love has an addiction to an addictive drug, rehab treatment can greatly aid recovery. 

Cocaine: Stimulating Addiction

The first mention on the list of most addictive drugs is cocaine. Derived from the coca plant, which is commonly grown in the southern hemisphere, it is mass-produced into an abusable form. Once harvested, it is formulated into either a soft powder, or dehydrated into a solid “rock-like” material.

When in powder form, it is marketed and distributed as cocaine. When it is in solid form, it is referred to as crack. Both are equally as harmful. Though they differ in how they are exploited, both are considered expensive habits. 

Individuals use cocaine through a few different methods. Snorting is the most common method of use. This action is commonly referred to as “partying” by the contemporary generation. This South American coca derivative rapidly produces a stimulated high, pushing vast amounts of dopamine into brain receptors. 

The Dangers of Cocaine Use

With a very potent dose of the addictive drug, the buzz can be quite intense and take effect almost instantly. Aside from snorting cocaine, additional methods of use include injecting or smoking. Even a small amount of the addictive drug in the mix will produce the effects a user may desire. 

For example, when a person snorts a substance instead of ingesting it, the drug bypasses the liver’s first filtration. The mucus glands absorb it directly. Users think of this dangerous practice as the easiest and most preferable. But this is extremely harmful. 

Due to this and the greed to make money on their product, dealers will often cut or blend their products. To cut cocaine, additional similar powders of alike consistency and color are often added into the mix. The most common additives are flour, talcum, or even other cheaper drugs (crushed to resemble its form), like amphetamines and opioids

Regardless, the implementation of cocaine causes a rush of dopamine, the pleasure chemical in the brain. It practically has an immediate effect on mood and function. The intense sensation of euphoria, however, is often very short-lived. The high brings about a period of excitement and heightened alertness, which is followed by an equally intense crash. In order to avoid the preceding feelings of tiredness, aggravation, or even depressive state, cocaine users resort back to use. This creates a cycle that before long grows into dependency, followed by full-blown addiction. 

Though it doesn’t take long to become addicted, it is the depressive lows that often reinforce continual use. Cocaine is classified as a Schedule 2 controlled substance, and is completely illegal in the United States. Meaning, that not only is it one of the most addictive drugs requiring rehab treatment, but carries severe legal consequences. 

Heroin: A High to Dull The Pain

Heroin is another one of the most addictive drugs found only through street sales. It is illegal to have, use, produce, and sell. This drug is also derived from a plant, predominantly found in China and Southeast Asia. The product is a very highly addictive substance that heroin is sourced and manufactured to become. 

High on the list of the most addictive drugs, it is often used for its ability to numb pain. Heroin is formulated using morphine, which is commonly used today for emergency or chronic pain management using professional medical discretion. However, having a potency that is completely uncontrolled, along with dangerous methods of use, heroin is not an acceptable substitute. Just one encounter increases the likelihood of dependency, and when combined with psychological illness, the odds triple. 

Typically, individuals use heroin by injecting, smoking, or snorting it. This substance functions to hinder receptors in the brain that alert the body to pain. Just the opposite of cocaine, it blocks dopamine receptors, causing an opposite high. In doing so, the sense of euphoria of this addictive drug promotes extreme relaxation, along with almost immediate pain relief. 

The Deadly Side Of Heroin Addiction

Heroin is widely considered to be one of the most addictive drugs that exist today. Studies have shown that over 25% of those that use just once, will become addicts. Due to its highly addictive qualities, dependency develops rapidly, and rehab treatment may be extensive. 

Heroin is largely used on a continuous basis because of its extremely unpleasant withdrawal. Referred to as dope-sickness, it can cause a person to experience pain both emotionally and physically. Once the addictive drug has worn off, original pain will resume, bringing along with it a slew of flu-like symptoms. Coupled with symptoms that include insomnia, anxiety, or depression, addicts often readminister the addictive drug for relief. 

After the first experience with heroin, tolerance begins to build up. This primarily leads directly to needing higher doses to feel the effect, and one misstep could have deadly results. In addition, the risk of heroin being blended with other harmful substances like fentanyl, overdoses occur all too often. Fentanyl has been found laced within batches of heroin and is lethal when injected in even the smallest of doses. This leaves no room for error. 

Then there is also the risk of transmission of other debilitating diseases. The most common means to administer heroin is intravenously, directly into the bloodstream. Additionally, it is common culture to share needles with another. This often puts people at risk for contracting diseases such as hepatitis and HIV. The best way to avoid this is to abstain completely.

(It is important to note that, if you suspect that an overdose is happening, call 911 immediately. Then if possible, administer Narcan until consciousness resumes or emergency personnel arrive on the scene.)

Alcohol: The Life of the Party

Alcohol, not only one of the most addictive substances, but it is even sold legally! To those of a designated age that is. In the US, it is prohibited to purchase alcohol legally until the age of 21. However, the laws for legal consumption are a bit of a gray area and can vary from state to state. 

Because of its overwhelming availability and the normalcy placed upon its use, alcohol continues to be highly abused. A recent study performed showed that around 1 out of 10 adults over the age of 18 suffered from alcoholism. This is likely due to persistent marketing, as well as reasonable pricing, all drugs considered. 

The Risks of Alcohol Abuse 

This addictive substance also has an effect on the receptors and neurotransmitters in the brain. While suppressing the nervous system, alcohol entices a feel-good sensation, enhancing mood, and lowering inhibitions. However, the main reason for its effectiveness is due to hindering the speed at which the nerves receive vital information. 

The slowing of the central nervous system will cause both lower blood pressure and heart rate. This gives the illusion of suppressing unwanted emotions or psychological illness like PTSD or bipolar disorder, that cause anxiety.  While doing so however, motor skills and perception are also skewed. Along with sedating impulse control, many under the influence engage in risky or life-threatening behaviors with devastating consequences. 

Alcohol Detox and Withdrawal

Regular consumption of alcohol leads to the build-up of tolerance. However, the more tolerance a person has does not mean that the substance is less addictive or harmful to them. In fact, the more dependent a person becomes to abusing alcohol, the worse or even deadly the withdrawal can be. 

This is one of the primary reasons that getting rehab treatment for alcohol detox is highly recommended. Once a person stops ingesting alcohol, there will be a short amount of time before withdrawal kicks in. During this time, an addict is most likely willing to pick up another beverage, instead of choosing sobriety. This is why alcohol is considered among the most addictive drugs. 

Alcohol detox and withdrawal programs are available at the beginning of rehab treatment. Once in the care of the facility, detox professionals can help manage symptoms and even provide life-saving care when needed. And unfortunately, when it comes to this highly addictive drug, it is very often necessary. 

Some of the experiences a person is likely to go through during alcohol withdrawal include: 

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Insomnia or night terrors
  • Anxiety and/or depression
  • Headache, dizziness, and confusion
  • Abdominal pain, constipation, or diarrhea
  • Uncontrollable shaking, tremors, and seizures
  • Sweating, hypertension, and irregular heartbeat
  • Mood changes, aggression, or psychotic episodes

These symptoms come about fairly soon after the last sip of the addictive drug is consumed. It is a result of the alcohol beginning to circulate out of the body, as the nervous system attempts to bounce back and function. Once there is no alcohol left to suppress the system, it can become more than a little uncomfortable. 

For some lucky alcoholics, experiencing all of these at once may not occur. For others, this can be very scary and can even result in death if not properly cared for. To break the cycle of alcohol abuse and withdrawal safely, enlist in the care of a rehab detox program. 

Prescription Medications and Painkillers

One of the reasons that prescription medications and painkillers make the list is because of their growing availability. Especially within the last decade, the epidemic has been brought to the attention of law enforcement and rehabilitation facilities. In order to combat, new guidelines and standards have been put in place to more closely monitor their distribution. However, the disease of addiction once developed, can drive a person to find another way around. 

Whether they are the most addictive drugs, depends on what type of drugs they are, and if used as intended. However, either way they carry with them the potential for dependency and abuse. Some medications that are commonly abused and require drug rehabilitation treatment include (but are not limited to):

Always take care and speak with your doctor if you have any concerns. Medical professionals along with rehab specialists are in place to help guide you to the best resolution. They can help you work through addiction, and provide therapy options for any underlying illness concerns. 

When Prescription Medications Backfire

Usually, these addictive drugs are prescribed by doctors with the genuine intention to help their patients. However, before long, tolerance and dependency on medications can build up and exceed what is available to administer responsibly. Often seen in cases of addicts with co-occurring disorders, abusing medication has led them down the dark road of addiction. 

A co-occurring disorder is when a person suffers from a psychological illness along with a substance use disorder. If not properly in communication with their mental health care provider about their needs, many take self-medication into their own hands. When this happens, addiction quickly develops and the need for mental health treatment falls below their priorities. 

Often at this point, procuring addictive drugs to cope becomes more important than treating the initial illness sought care for. A sure recipe for disaster requires rehabs to be on the lookout for underlying or co-occurring illnesses to avoid relapse. Fortunately, drug and alcohol therapists and counselors specialize in this type of assessment. With their help, managing both addiction and psychological illness is a proactive approach to rehabilitation and recovery. 

Nicotine and Caffeine: The TagAlongs

Just like alcohol, both nicotine and caffeine are addictive substances that are sold legally within the United States. However, that age to legally purchase nicotine is even lower, in most states as low as 18. While caffeine is readily available. No age restriction has been legally imposed on either sales or consumption. 

Unfortunately for both, dependency can build up quickly. The use of both is rather ritualistic in nature and are likely to be left unmonitored by most. This is presumably due to their long-lasting cultural affiliation and acceptance as a societal norm. In many countries, the two go hand in hand even. 

As of recent years, many organizations have popped up against nicotine, alerting the public of the danger. Regular and persistent use of nicotine-containing products can increase the risk of developing a plethora of cardiovascular illnesses. That is, in addition to damaging the throat, mouth, teeth, and practically all pulmonary functions. Yet, the actual use of the chemical nicotine, while considered an addictive drug, is still a bit controversial. 

Caffeine, on the other hand, is served daily, with no limits, in a majority of households around the world. In high doses, it can lead to producing stimulant effects. Regardless, caffeine remains a habit-forming addictive drug, found on shelves, and readily available to just about anyone. 

Methamphetamine: The Ultimate Destructive Stimulant

Quite possibly the most addictive drug created and distributed illegally is methamphetamine. Its street tag, “meth,” is lab-engineered, as opposed to altered or grown. The man-made, highly abused, and addictive drug is typically obtained in the form of crystals or powders, nicknamed “crystal meth.” 

Methamphetamine can be administered via snorting, smoking, or intravenous injection. It leads a person to experience extreme emotions of excitability, boosted focus, and even bouts of pleasure.

However, this high can also be very unpredictable. Some users of this addictive drug will react with violence, aggression, or even psychosis. It is not exactly known why different reactions to methamphetamine occur, though it is likely due to dosage inconsistencies. Individual therapy options are likely going to be the best option to cope with the lingering effects of meth addiction. 

While reducing the desire for adequate eating and sleeping requirements, meth does significant damage to the brain in just a short time. Resulting in the loss of memory function and cognition, the ability to learn and regulate emotion quickly takes effect. Similarly, dependency and the development of tolerance to the addictive drug does not waste any time either. During professional therapy sessions, addicts can begin to mend the damage that this devastating and addictive drug has left behind. 

Treatment for Methamphetamine Addiction: Intensive Residential Care

With prolonged use, the brain’s pleasure chemical becomes quickly depleted, and dopamine receptors become severely damaged. Along with the decline in physical appearance and extreme unwellness, permanent damage to the brain after addiction is possible. Rehab treatment centers dedicate specialized time and intensive residential treatment for those after detox when treatment is most effective. 

Often recognized by very compulsive substance-abusing behavior, around the clock care is recommended. Because of the nature of, what is possibly the most addictive drug habit to develop, suicidal behaviors commonly precede withdrawal. Residential treatment is the most intensive around the clock care available to those seeking treatment for meth addiction. Fortunately, with dedication, quality rehab therapy, and the will to be sober, recovery is made possible.

Rehab Can Help You Get Sober

While all substance abuse is important to seek treatment for, imposing a strong focus on the most addictive drugs is a priority. The damage to the body, brain, and the destruction of the lives of addicts, addiction can be devastating. Although there is no cure for addiction as of yet, treatment is an effective means to manage and cope. 

 By pursuing sobriety and recovery from substance abuse, you can receive a new hope for a brighter tomorrow. Don’t wait until addictive drugs have taken everything from you. Contact us today to discuss what treatment is right for you. Take back what is rightfully yours; Your right to a healthy life, and sobriety in recovery.