Most Addictive Drugs

The issue of substance use disorder has become a widespread problem affecting more than 21 million Americans. It has become very costly as well as the nation shells out more than $740 billion each year to cover costs of health care, crime, and lost work productivity. It is not easy to pinpoint the most addictive drugs affecting our population today as each person has different tendencies, predispositions, and exposures to the substance. Sometimes because of the genetic and chemical makeup of an individual can have an impact on the drug use patterns and how it affects an individual’s brain.

There are some instances when drug dependence happens almost instantaneously. In some, it would take a much longer period of time, but once dependence occurs, it poses greater risks. This means the withdrawal from the drug will be more challenging and detrimental. Still, there are those that get people hooked even if a person uses them several times only.

Drug addiction is quite a complex disease impacting not only the behavior but also brain circuitry. Whether it is the most addictive drug or not, using these substances produce pleasure by enhancing how good a person feels. When the drugs wear off, individuals feel bad about themselves, prompting them to look for the happy sensation by using drugs again. And the cycle goes on.


This arguably one of the most popular drugs on the market today. It is tagged as a highly addictive substance that considered a stimulant. This means that it heightens the body’s activity by increasing alertness, energy, blood pressure, and heart rate. It creates a sense of high as it overloads the brain with dopamine, which is a neurotransmitter involving pleasure.

The substance traces its roots to South America as it is taken from the coca plant that is native to the place. It can be in rock or powder form and is taken by smoking, snorting, or injecting.

Euphoria and excitement are also increased when using the substance. It is one of the most addictive drugs as it pushes users to go into a binge pattern. This is where an individual uses the drug back to back so the high or the effect of the drug is maintained. A crash comes after this and is characterized by depression, mental and physical fatigue, and more serious cravings for the drug.

It is quite difficult to withdraw from cocaine due to the cravings and fatigue that happen when a person stops taking it. This is also why cocaine is considered one of the most addictive drugs. Professional medical help is necessary when a person decides to really stop using the drug in order to address the hazards of withdrawal.


Nicotine is regarded as one of the most addictive drugs that are easily accessible. In 2019, it is estimated that about 34 million American adults smoke tobacco. This substance is mostly found in tobacco.

It works by providing pleasant sensations and elevating the cognition and mood of users so they keep on smoking. The nicotine goes to the mucosal lining located in both the nose and mouth, passing through the lungs, and then to the skin and it also affects the brain’s reward circuitry.

The effect of the nicotine is felt in a matter of ten seconds from the time smoking begins. The sensation wears off a couple of hours after. This is when it becomes apparent why nicotine is one of the most addictive drugs as the person will be looking for the same sensation they felt while smoking so they tend to take out another cigarette.

It is very easy to get hooked on nicotine. A person becomes dependent on it by smoking regularly. Unfortunately, this is one of the hardest drugs to stop using without seeking a professional help. Some of its withdrawal symptoms include anxiety, increased appetite, depression, irritability, cravings, and trouble concentrating on things.

Despite its ill effects on individuals and considering that it is accountable for more than 480,00 deaths each year across America, this substance is still highly susceptible to abuse. It is readily and legally available in the market. This is also why people who stop using it are more likely to relapse.

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This is a drug that blocks pain, yields an “out-of-body” sensation, and increases relaxation. This is because heroin acts on the brain’s opioid receptors. Additionally, it also gives a sense of euphoria by providing piling up dopamine in the brain.

This is one of the most addictive drugs with about 586,000 Americans hooked to it in 2014. The rise on the use and abuse of heroin is attributed to the regulated use and tighter restriction on opioid drugs such as hydromorphone, oxycodone, and hydrocodone.

Getting hooked on heroin is fairly easy. Dependence happens with regular use. But withdrawal from heroin is a difficult process that can take a toll on the person both physically and emotionally. Withdrawal symptoms such as insomnia, flu-like symptoms, depression, and anxiety will be felt after a dependent’s discontinued use. This is why it is one of the most addictive drugs. People will use and abuse this substance again just to avoid the discomfort that comes with stopping its use.


There are more than 500,000 Americans who abuse methamphetamine. This is another highly addictive drug that takes away the need for sleep, curbs appetite, increases focus, and elevates pleasure and excitability. This is produced illegally and it comes in either crystal or powder form. It can be used by snorting, smoking, or injecting and can cause a euphoric high.

When meth is taken in large quantities, it can lead to psychotic side effects. In most cases, it can lead to violence and aggression. It is rather easy to get dependent on this drug as individuals using it would want to use more in order to keep feeling the high of this drug,

It is regarded as one of the most addictive substances as users are likely to increase their dosage over time. But the repeated and prolonged use of meth can have adverse effects on the brain. It can damage the areas related to memory, learning, and emotional regulation. Additionally, abusing meth can exhaust dopamine levels and can affect how dopamine receptors work in the brain.

When the substance leaves the body, the dopamine levels are down, and if there is an inability to properly bind the receptors. This will cause possible suicidal tendencies, severe depression, and consequential cravings for the drug. These will then lead to an obsessive and compulsive search and need for drugs and its repeated abuse.


Alcohol use disorder is another prevalent issue affecting 14.5 million people of age 12 and older in 2019. Statistics have also shown that alcohol can be quite fatal as it accounted for 88, 000 deaths in America.

This is another challenging substance to withhold as it is legally available to individuals 21 and above, and it is most often part of any social gathering. They are very easy to have access to and quite inexpensive making them more susceptible to abuse.

Taking alcohol means enhancing the person’s mood much just like most addictive drugs. It can also depress the central nervous system and slows down its nerve functions and firings. This will cause a lowered heart rate and blood pressure. In addition, it also enhances sedation plus it impairs cognition and motor skills.

It is common for people who are under the influence of alcohol to take risky behaviors as the individual’s inhibitions are lowered. You will also notice how people become uncharacteristically chatty and sociable. People may also go through mood swings while their decision-making and impulse-control abilities are impaired.

Dependency on alcohol occurs when it is taken in large amounts or during binge drinking patterns. Withdrawal symptoms from these substances can be mild to life-threatening. It can cause depression, anxiety, insomnia, sweating, tremors, hypertension, irregular heart rate, headaches, nausea, abdominal pain, vomiting, and even seizures and psychosis. In order to limit these symptoms, many opt to use alcohol, which can then lead to perpetuating the addiction to alcohol.

Seek Help Immediately

It is quite difficult to withdraw from these substances knowing the effects of these most addictive drugs. It does not only need much resolve to faithfully do as it requires the need of professional help in order to avoid the adverse and, at times, life-threatening effects.

There are many addiction treatment centers available to help you or a family member out. You can choose to avail of the services of facilities near you or enroll in a program away from your residence. The choice is really up to you.

There are short-term and long-term programs available to cater to all of your needs. However, which program you or a loved one should avail of is dependent on several factors. An assessment will be made initially to have a comprehensive idea of the situation.

Medical disclaimer:

Sunshine Behavioral Health strives to help people who are facing substance abuse, addiction, mental health disorders, or a combination of these conditions. It does this by providing compassionate care and evidence-based content that addresses health, treatment, and recovery.

Licensed medical professionals review material we publish on our site. The material is not a substitute for qualified medical diagnoses, treatment, or advice. It should not be used to replace the suggestions of your personal physician or other health care professionals.

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