Which Substances Are the Most Addictive?

Drug addict holding his head in his hands

David Heitz October 14, 2020

Alcohol can be as bad or worse than hard drugs. In fact, one study published in the British medical journal The Lancet suggests that alcohol abuse can be more dangerous than crack or heroin addiction.

One person’s meth addiction may seem mild to symptoms displayed by a raging alcoholic, for example.

Everyone picks their own poison. While heroin is widely considered the most addictive drug, methamphetamine, cocaine and even alcohol also can be extremely habit-forming and dangerous.

Let us take a closer look at these the four most addictive drugs, and why these most addictive and most dangerous substances grab hold so tight.

Alcohol: More Dangerous Than Crack

Believe it or not, alcohol is right up there with amphetamines, cocaine and prescription opioids/heroin among the most addictive substances. Using any of these substances is to travel down a slippery slope that could destroy your life.

Long-term alcohol abuse leads to chronic health conditions such as pancreatitis and liver disease. It also can cause several types of cancers.

Alcohol, a depressant that increases dopamine levels, ravages the brain and the body. Too much drinking leads to mood swings and forgetfulness. Once alcohol kills a brain cell, it is not coming back. A brain cell cannot repair itself.

Long term alcohol abuse also leads to chronic health conditions such as pancreatitis (inflamed pancreas, a dangerous condition that can result in death) and liver disease. Alcohol abuse can cause several types of cancers.

A recovering alcohol will notice health improvements immediately. Stomach problems decrease and the risk of pancreatitis drops.

Early recovery for an alcoholic is best completed in a residential treatment center where withdrawal symptoms can be managed with medication under a doctor’s care.

The longer a person waits to enter recovery, the bigger toll alcohol continues to take. Alcoholism is a disease that often ends in the destruction of families, relationships, and even death.

Pain Pills: Predecessors to Heroin

Prescription opioids (medications such as Percocet) are highly addictive in the cruelest of ways. People become addicted to these medications usually after being prescribed them for pain from an injury or surgery. For years, doctors prescribed these most addictive substances irresponsibly.

Now we have a national opioid epidemic. Those who started on prescription opioids have progressed to heroin. Most people prescribed the pain medications misuse them, and about 10 percent develop opioid use disorder. Half of those go on to use heroin.

Heroin slows your breathing and your heart rate and can result in cardiac arrest. Warning signs of overdose are bluish lips or extremities and a gurgling sound while breathing. Over time, heroin addiction can lead to cardiovascular disease, a damaged liver and kidneys and other problems.

Overdosing on heroin is common and dangerous. Dosing amounts for a high and an accidental overdose are not that far apart. The United States government is trying to combat heroin deaths by making the drug Narcan widely available. Narcan can bring a person experiencing overdose back from the brink.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, about 80 percent of people who use heroin first tried prescription opioids.

Opioid addiction is not anyone’s fault. For most who are addicted, what started as an escape from pain has become a daily cycle of addiction and using to keep from becoming sick.

Blue methamphetamine crystals

Methamphetamine: A Most Intense High

Methamphetamine is a powerful stimulant that floods the brain with dopamine when snorted, smoked, injected, or ingested. But just as powerful as the high is the crash.

People who use methamphetamine regularly can develop hallucinations and paranoia. Among the most addictive substances, people who get hooked on meth can forget to care for themselves (developing dental problems, for example) and eventually just about drop out of life. They can lose everything as the spiral into despair and loneliness.

Some people who use meth stay up for days at a time and do not eat, leading to dehydration and other health problems. People who consume too much methamphetamine are at risk of a racing heart, known as tachycardia, and even heart attack.

The longer a person waits to get into recovery from meth, the more addicted they become to the drug. Meth use can lead to extreme psychosis as well as personal and legal problems. 

Crack Cocaine: Exceptionally High Dopamine Levels

Cocaine is a powerfully addictive stimulant that changes the brain’s chemistry over time. Rather quickly, people who use cocaine find that they need more and more of the drug to get the same effect.

This happens because dopamine levels stop being recycled through the brain. Just as a person high on cocaine exudes happiness, a person coming down can demonstrate paranoia and irritability from this most addictive substance.

Using cocaine can crank up the heartbeat so fast it feels like it is going to leap out of your chest. You also may experience sweatiness and clenching of the teeth when using cocaine or other uppers, like methamphetamine. Too much cocaine use can lead to cardiac arrest.

Snorting cocaine can lead to permanent, serious problems with the nose. Injecting is especially dangerous, as the risk of contracting HIV and Hepatitis C from dirty needles comes into play. Studies have shown that cocaine speeds up HIV infection and may increase the risk of contracting Hepatitis C, a disease of the liver.

Silicon Beach Treatment Center is Your Destination for Addiction Treatment in LA

At Silicon Beach Treatment Center, we look at the whole person when assessing someone’s addiction. Often, a co-occurring mental illness such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder are driving someone’s use of the most addictive drugs. 

Our substance abuse program in sunny California offers plenty of options and activities for our patients. Addiction treatment in L.A. leaves no room for idle time and leaving paths to sobriety unchartered. Inpatient, intensive outpatient and outpatient treatment programs are available.

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