There are many addictive substances out there, but which are the most addictive? Although it’s hard to sure to say for sure that one drug is more addictive than another, here are some of the worst offenders:
Heroin- Opiates are an extremely common drug to be addicted to—a common cause for people seeking drug rehabilitation centers. Heroin is the most potent opiate, commonly taken via injection. Heroin quickly attaches to the brain’s opioid receptors, dulling pain and creating a sense of euphoria. Using heroin overstimulates the brain’s reward system, leading the brain to halt natural reward feelings in an attempt to compensate. This leaves a heroin addict with a brain unable to feel pleasure without using the drug.
Crack Cocaine- this form of cocaine, yellow-white rocks that are commonly smoked, causes the brain to release excessive amounts of the pleasure-causing chemical dopamine. Like with heroin, the brain shuts off natural dopamine production as a response, leading the user to need to smoke crack in order for the brain to release any dopamine at all. Crack’s effect is short-lived—sometimes lasting as short as 15 minutes—so users are compelled to use extremely often.
Alcohol- Alcohol is probably the most commonly used addictive substance. Drinking alcohol releases both dopamine and endorphins, creating a pleasurable feeling, but making the brain dependent on substance—noticing a trend here? Alcohol is especially dangerous because the social acceptance of drinking makes it easy to develop an addiction without having to face the social stigma of an addiction to drugs like heroin or cocaine. The withdrawal process for alcohol is notably brutal, featuring seizures, hallucinations, and the risk of death. Detox from alcohol, then, can essential to recovery, and it should be supervised by a physician.
Nicotine- Nicotine, the addictive substance in cigarettes, is one of the most addictive legal substances. Although the drug itself has not been found to be carcinogenic, its delivery systems (cigarettes, chewing tobacco, etc.) are. Nicotine, like crack cocaine, releases dopamine and tricks the brain into halting its natural production of the chemical. Nicotine is especially addictive because the effects are felt so quickly. It takes as little as 10 seconds after inhaling cigarette smoke for nicotine to affect the brain. Because of this, as many as 85% of people who attempt to quit nicotine without aids like patches or gums fail, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Fortunately, withdrawal from nicotine is not physically dangerous and the drug does not change the user’s behavior, so drug rehabilitation programs are often not necessary to quit the drug.
To be honest, though, the relative addictiveness of drugs doesn’t matter—addiction is addiction. In all cases, the user’s brain is going to be altered and have to rely on a drug for pleasure-causing chemicals rather than producing them naturally. This means that for an addict, not using means not being able to feel pleasure, an often unbearable choice. The only way out are drug rehabilitation centers, where caring, empathetic professionals will help the addict try to manage their disease and have a chance to get back to an enjoyable, sober life.