What are the Most Addictive Substances and Why?

  1. The most addictive substances

What are the Most Addictive Substances?

Addictive substances have been around as long as time itself. They’ve been used for medicinal reasons, cultural and even spiritual rituals. Needless to say, there is quite a history when it comes to drugs and alcohol. However, that is not the only baggage they carry. Substances such as drugs and alcohol also carry with them a dark history of addiction. But with so many out there, how are we to know which are most dangerous? Read on to find out what are the most addictive substances and why?

Professor Nutt’s Ranking

Most rankings of how addictive drugs are, rely on Professor David Nutt’s research into the matter. Together with his team, they analyzed substances based on six qualities:

  • How easy it is to become hooked
  • How much harm it causes
  • What the street value of the drug is,
  • How the drug activates and influences the brain’s dopamine system,
  • How pleasurable the drug is,
  • To what degree the drug causes withdrawal symptoms

It is important to remember that substances affect people differently so even if a certain drug is lower or not even on the list that doesn’t mean it’s safe in anyway shape or form.

Here are five of the most addictive substances.

5. Nicotine

Found in cigarettes, some e-liquids, chewing tobacco and other substances nicotine literally changes your brain. In addition to raising the levels of dopamine, it forces your brain to create extra nicotine receptors to keep up with the high dosage received. Once you stop supplying it, you go into withdrawal, because the brain isn’t getting what it’s used to. Despite this, according to BeTobaccoFree.gov, 1 in 5 adults and teens smoke. This high a number can at least partially be accredited to the accessibility of this substance and its addictive nature.

4. Barbiturates, a.k.a. downers

These drugs were at the height of their popularity in the 60’s and 70’s as relaxants and sleeping pills. They act similarly to alcohol relaxing the user, in higher doses even working as an anesthetic. After long periods, users build up a tolerance and dependence, which leads to an even heavier withdrawal. That is one reason why downers are highly addictive drugs. Additionally, the difference between a safe dose and a lethal one is very small and overdoses caused by suppressed breathing are not uncommon.

3. Cocaine

Cocaine like other drugs interferes with the brain’s natural reward system, making it produce too much dopamine, which results in a high. However, in addition to this effect coke has some other dangerous effects including narrowed blood vessels, increased heart rate, and blood pressure. These effects, especially those connected to the heart, are often the culprits of death by overdose. Withdrawal involves depression, unpleasant dreams, insomnia, slowed thinking and movement. However, because of its strong effect on the brain cocaine is a highly addictive drug, with an estimated 1.5 million users in 2014 in the US alone (according to DrugAbuse.gov).

2. Alcohol

Alcohol is one of the most widely available and socially acceptable addictive substances around. According to the CDC in the period 2006-2010 alcohol was responsible for 1 out of 10 deaths of working-age adults aged 20-64 years in the US. Alcohol releases two neurotransmitters in excess: GABA and dopamine. Despite the fact that they are responsible for calming the brain down and the reward system, too much of them can lead to shortness of breath, higher blood pressure, and heart rate, even hallucinations and spasms. They can also lead to aggression which in turn results in many bad choices. And those are only the effects on the brain, which is just a small part of alcohol addiction side-effects.

1. Heroin

The most addictive drug, according to Prof. Nutt’s study is heroin. This can be contributed to its effect on cells responsible for feeling pain and pleasure. It also controls heart rate, breathing, and sleeping. Users report a “rush” that comes with it, however, there are many, more drastic effects of heroin use as well. These include dry mouth, a heavy feeling in the arms and legs, wavering between the state of being conscious and semi-conscious. Long-term effects go as far as the degradation of white matter in the brain. Heroin is a highly addictive drug as well as highly dangerous one. A lethal dose is only five times greater than a dose needed to achieve a “high”.

How to find help

However true or false you may find Professor Nutt’s ranking, according to science, these are the most addictive substances. However, this does not mean that other drugs aren’t just as dangerous. Every person is unique and therefore can have different experiences with addictive substances. If you or someone you know is struggling with an addiction don’t let it hide in the shadow. It’s vital to seek help as soon as possible. There are many different steps one can take to quit an addiction, depending on the substance, level of addiction, willpower and many other elements. You can find many options of detoxes, inpatient and outpatient rehabs, group meetings in your area. There is something for everyone.

To find out more about addiction and recovery click here.

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