When making a list like this, we are not advocating that some drugs are fine to use while others are not, we are merely sharing information about the most addictive drugs on the market. The most important tool we have against drug addiction is not law enforcement – it is education.
It should come as no surprise that heroin remains at the top of the list, with the addictive traits of heroin being nothing short of horror stories. Heroin mimics endorphins and affects opioid receptors. This means heroin causes pleasure and reduces pain. Because opioid receptors are all over the areas of the brain that affect learning and reward processing, users are essentially ensuring that their body craves heroin by training their body to need it. Combine that with nasty withdrawal symptoms and you understand the dangers of heroin use.
Make no mistake about OxyContin (Oxycodone), it is prescribed for those in pain, but that does not make it any less dangerous and thus places high amongst the most addictive drugs in the world. Especially when used the wrong way (snorting it or injecting) there is little difference between Oxycodone and heroin.
#3 Crack Cocaine
Even though powder cocaine and crack cocaine share similar effects and chemical compositions, smoking crack cocaine produces a shorter, yet more intense rush. The combination of the efficient method of ingestion and intensity of the high makes it a very dangerous drug and ensures that addiction rates are much higher for crack cocaine than the powder variant.
#4 Crystal Meth
Mimicking a natural neurotransmitter – it means that you are training your brain to have a need for the drug – that is how both heroin and nicotine work. However, crystal methamphetamine takes that notion a step further, imitating norepinephrine (an alertness chemical) and chemical dopamine. Because crystal methamphetamine has the ability to damage neurons that release norepinephrine and dopamine, it means that you start craving more methamphetamine to feel better.
While nicotine may not have the same fear associated with it, nor does it produce the same high as crack and heroin, it does work biologically similar in the most important way: it imitates a common neurotransmitter. In fact, it does this so brilliantly that one of the acetylcholine receptors bears its name. The more someone smokes, the more nicotine someone needs to take in to maintain normal brain function.
Because alcohol is often consumed in social settings and legal, the addiction is quite complicated. However, it is remarkably effective and simple as an addictive agent. The reward system causes intense and well-documented cravings. The withdrawal syndrome with alcohol is so severe that it may even become fatal.
Even though these are not as addictive as methamphetamine, it does work in much the same way. So much so that if it is used in high doses or regularly, it causes rapid desire and tolerance. Simply quitting may lead to anxiety, extreme fatigue, and severe depression.
Cocaine makes it so that your brain’s reward areas cannot reabsorb dopamine. This means that if someone uses enough cocaine, the brain will reduce the number of dopamine receptors in the region. The brain is assuming that it already has enough dopamine, so the dopamine receptors are unnecessary. Unlike methamphetamine, cocaine does not destroy dopamine neurons, but the short high and fast method of use, combined with a rapid tolerance, makes cocaine dangerous.
There is a reason that doctors are always adamant about a patient tapering off these prescription anti-anxiety drugs (Klonopin, Xanax, and Valium) after taking them for a while. Each of these prescription medications increases the effectiveness of GABA, a brain chemical. This chemical decreases anxiety and reduces the excitability of many other neurons. Just quitting unexpectedly can include panic attacks, anxiety, and irritability.
This is a popular club drug and depressant. Because of the cross-tolerance with alcohol, you have to take in more GHB to get high if you consume alcohol regularly. It also has brutal withdrawal symptoms such as vomiting, dizziness, anxiety, and insomnia.