Are you curious about what the most addictive drugs are? Know them, so you can help avoid a tragedy.
What are the top four most addictive drugs on the market and what makes them so addictive? Are illicit drugs more habit forming than legal ones, and is the way we currently view addiction playing an adverse role in how we deal with the drug epidemic? Narrowing down the top four most addictive drugs is a difficult task, and to be honest, may be a bit futile and misleading. That’s because there are many factors that attribute to addiction and, while we can discuss patterns in general terms, it ultimately is not as easy as saying, “one drug is more addictive than another.” We’ll talk more about illegal drugs and their effects and the most addictive illegal substances.
According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse, Addiction is defined as “a chronic, relapsing brain disease that is characterized by compulsive drug seeking and use, despite harmful consequences.” While this definition gives us a starting point in identifying signs of a problem, one of the factors that lead to chronic drug use, is as varied as the types of drugs available. What population is more likely to become addicted to a drug? What types of drugs have more of a hold on its users? Are illegal drugs more likely to be abused than one’s prescribed by a physician? How do we judge addiction levels? Or –more importantly –can we? As drug use in America continually climbs in staggering numbers, our understanding of why this is occurring must expand and evolve. We are learning that markers such as genetics, chemical brain imbalances, traumatic experiences, social queues, education, and accessibility all contribute to the likelihood of an individual abusing substances. And because all of these outside factors cannot be overlooked when it comes to assessing the risk, it is very difficult and perhaps even misleading to make blanketed statements about a drug being more or less addictive than any other drug.
Even if we studied one hundred people that had the exact same history, genetic disposition, and social influences, we would still find that they would not share the same propensity for a specific drug. A handful of people might love the way they feel on methamphetamine while other people in the study might hate the way uppers make them feel and thus, are hooked on something else. Furthermore, the likelihood of one drug being abused over a different drug may have less to do with what people prefer and more to do with accessibility and cost. Perhaps prescription drugs like oxycodone and Xanax are used in higher numbers because they are easier to get then illicit drugs.
Because of these numerous factors, it was difficult compiling a list of the top four most addictive drugs. Each substance on this list was chosen for different reasons and it’s important to note that, just because this list exists as a warning to potential users, that doesn’t negate the seriousness of other drugs that didn’t make the list. Any drug has potential to be both addictive and deadly if it is introduced to the right person at the right time.
With that being established, here are the top four “most addictive” drugs on the market:
Methamphetamine is a stimulant that excites the central nervous system and elevates brain activity. User’s describe meth as an intense feeling of euphoria and excitement that lasts for extended periods of time. The drug floods the reward centers of the brain which makes its users feel a false sense of confidence and invincibility. This drug is particularly addictive for a few reasons. Its chemical structure is one of the only drugs known to change the brain chemistry within just a few uses, which
make it highly addictive (as opposed to some drugs in which is takes chronic use to really develop a physical dependency). Another, methamphetamine is incredibly cheap to produce and easy to make. One need to look no farther than YouTube to learn how to make the drug. Now, to finish off, meth is especially dangerous because of how people act when using it. There are countless reports on meth users committing illegal and dangerous acts while high on it.
Oxycodone is similar to meth in that it elevates levels of “feel good” hormones in the brain. However, it is addictive for somewhat different reasons. Oxycodone is an opiate and exists in different forms. Used to treat pain, oxycodone works by blocking receptors in the Central Nervous System and brain that signal pain. Used under a doctor’s guidance, there are different forms of this drug that are both legal and very effective for severe pain in patients. In its illegal form, this drug is referred to as heroin on the streets. However, don’t be fooled by the legal terminology. Whether we are talking about a legal prescription or an illegal drug, both have the same likelihood of being habit-forming. In fact, oxycodone mad the list of Five Most Addictive Substances because it is legal. Accessibility and a false sense that this drug can’t be dangerous because it is prescribed by people we trust is what makes it that much more likely to be abused.
Marijuana is tricky because it is neither physically addicting, nor does it promote criminal or adverse behaviors. In fact, quite the contrary, marijuana has shown to have very positive effects, particularly toward people that suffer from a chronic pain or illness. Old myths of its negative influence have been widely debunked, to the point that states throughout the United States are making it recreationally and medically legal. Most studies show that it does not have a physical addictive element, meaning that brain response to the drug doesn’t create adverse reactions when use of the drug is eliminated. Thus, making the “Top Four Most Addictive Substance” list is a bit misleading because it is one of the few drugs available that really doesn’t have an addictive element… at least not chemically.
However, use of marijuana can lead to long-term problems and you would be hard-pressed to find a professional that wouldn’t warn of its habit-forming properties. Chronic use of cannabis can lead to memory problems, respiratory issues (if it is inhaled), and increased levels of anxiety and depression once a habitual user decides to stop. Furthermore, because of marijuana’s powerful medicinal purposes and the national rhetoric slowly becoming more positive toward its use, there is an inclination for its users to flippantly assume it cannot do any harm. This couldn’t be further from the truth. It is important to always remember that addiction ultimately is about a continual need for an outside source to make the individual feel normal. If a person needs to smoke marijuana throughout the day to function normally, then there is a problem.
Alcohol is number one on this list because its properties fit every qualifier for addiction and abuse. Alcohol is the most abused substance in America and it’s easy to see why. Alcohol is legal, so it’s easy to get. Unlike marijuana, alcohol is more accepted as a social norm. Alcohol can be found pretty much anywhere you go and a large percentage of the population uses it, so it’s viewed less as an epidemic. But just because a substance is legal and widely used doesn’t make it any less easy to abuse. In fact, it is
because alcohol use is observed as normal behavior, that red flags regarding its misuse may be harder to acknowledge. Alcohol is usually the first substance a teenager will try and it’s incredibly easy to get a hold of. About 76 million people suffer from some form of alcohol dependency worldwide and alcohol is responsible for 1.8 million deaths per year. If all those facts weren’t disconcerting enough, alcohol is the only drug that a person can die from going cold-turkey after years of chronic use. All of these factors make alcohol one of the most dangerous drugs on both the legal and illicit market.
Despite all of this information, the most important thing to take away from this article, is that no drug is safer than another drug. While we can look at patterns when studying drugs and the people that take them, every drug has the potential to be abused and cause havoc to its user and their families. Just as people have a preference toward certain foods, every drug user has his or her preference toward a substance. Ultimately, it really doesn’t matter if that substance is illegal or if has more “addictive” characteristics. Every drug is dangerous if it is used improperly and we as a society must learn how to treat every case differently if we ever plan on tackling the drug crisis.
If you or a loved one needs help with abuse and/or treatment, please call the WhiteSands Treatment at (877) 855-3470. Our addiction specialists can assess your recovery needs and help you get the addiction treatment that provides the best chance for your long-term recovery.