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What is the Most Addictive Drug?

Drug use is a huge problem in the United States, with millions of people suffering from a substance use disorder and tens of thousands losing their lives each year. According to the National Center for Drug Abuse Statistics, 31.9 million Americans currently use illegal drugs.[1] While the rates of drug abuse continue to rise each year, many people wonder what the most addictive drug is. 

While it can be difficult to determine which substance is the most addictive, some substances are known to be highly addictive. These drugs can cause people to become dependent after only one or two uses, meaning your first time trying a drug could mean the beginning of the cycle of addiction. 

The Most Addictive Drugs Ranked 

When you use drugs, they affect certain neurotransmitters in the brain responsible for pleasure and reward. Using addictive drugs repeatedly can retrain the brain to believe that those substances are the only source of reward and pleasure, causing you to become dependent on those drugs for happiness and fulfillment. This is what begins the cycle of addiction and causes people to compulsively use drugs again and again, despite facing the consequences of their substance abuse.

The top 4 most addictive drugs in order from greatest to least are:

1. Heroin 

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) states that heroin is the fastest-acting and most abused opioid in the United States.[2] Opioids are a type of drug that provide people with pain relief, however, many people abuse these substances to receive a euphoric high. Some examples of opioids include prescription painkillers like morphine, oxycodone, or hydrocodone, and illicit street drugs like heroin. 

While heroin can be snorted and smoked, it is most commonly injected directly into the veins. This is why heroin is considered to be the most addictive drug, as this method of administration coupled with the substance itself can cause individuals to become addicted immediately.

When you abuse heroin, it blocks the brain’s pain receptors, causing feelings of relaxation and pleasure. Heroin also causes the brain to release high levels of dopamine, triggering the brain’s reward center and leading to intense cravings for the substance.

2. Methamphetamine 

Methamphetamine, also known as crystal meth, is a potent stimulant drug that causes a physical high and feelings of euphoria. According to a study conducted by NIDA in 2019, 2 million people aged 12 or older used the drug, and half of those people were addicted to it.[3] About 50% of people who try meth will become addicted to the drug, which is an extremely high rate of addiction. 

People who abuse this drug may snort, smoke, or inject it. When abused, the substance increases focus, causes people to stay awake for long periods, and increases pleasure. If someone uses a large amount of the drug, it is common for them to experience aggression, violent behaviors, and symptoms of psychosis. 

Crystal meth is often referred to as the most addictive drug in the world because of its potency and widespread availability across the country. The effects of this drug come on very quickly and can last for up to 17 hours, making it extremely dangerous. 

3. Cocaine and Crack Cocaine 

Cocaine is a highly addictive stimulant drug that has become far too normalized in American society. Many people view this substance as a way to stay out later and party harder, causing many college-aged students to abuse the drug. People who abuse cocaine usually snort the drug and may experience effects such as increased levels of energy, excitement, and heightened alertness.

Because cocaine produces an intense but quick high, many users use the drug in large amounts over a short amount of time, an act that is referred to as a cocaine binge and can be extremely dangerous. Abusing cocaine in large amounts could lead to drug-induced psychosis, stroke, cardiac arrest, and death.

Another form of cocaine is known as crack, or crack cocaine. This substance is made by cooking the cocaine with baking soda, turning powdered cocaine into a rock-like substance called crack. This form of cocaine is thought to be even more addictive, as cooking the drug makes the substance even more “pure.”

4. Alcohol 

Alcohol is a “socially acceptable” substance, but it is known as one of the most addictive drugs. Alcohol is legal, readily available, and widely used, so it is one of the most commonly abused drugs in America.[4]

Despite the attitude surrounding alcohol, this substance can be extremely dangerous. It can have detrimental effects on your social, physical, emotional, and mental health. For example, when you are addicted to alcohol, quitting the drug cold turkey could result in life-threatening withdrawal symptoms like seizures and hallucinations. 

Unlike drugs like heroin which are likely to cause an overdose, alcohol is more likely to kill people slowly via liver failure or cirrhosis. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, “An estimated 95,000 people die from alcohol-related causes annually, making alcohol the third-leading preventable cause of death in the United States.”[4]

Finding Help for Drug Addiction and Alcoholism

If you or a loved one suffer from drug addiction or alcoholism, it’s time to seek help. Both types of substance use disorders can result in life-threatening mental and physical health conditions. Not to mention, living with a substance use disorder can be extremely difficult. 

Get the help you need and deserve by attending a professional addiction treatment program near you. Contact Mandala Healing Center today for more information on how to get started.