The Most Addictive Drugs

Drug addictions don’t happen all at once; they develop over a long period of time in small, steady increments. It often starts with experimentation; the person tries the drug with a friend or at a party, enjoys it, and wants to take it again. As drug use continues, the brain starts to rewire itself in anticipation of the drug, and it becomes harder and harder for the user kick the habit. Most people have experienced addiction to one degree or another, perhaps by craving something sweet after dinner or itching to check social media at work. Anything pleasurable can stimulate a cycle of addiction.


After the first use, it doesn’t take very long to get addicted to heroin. The opiate can be smoked or snorted, but typically users heat the substance and inject it directly into their veins. This method provides a sudden jolt of pleasure and a quicker high than smoking or snorting does, making it the preferred style of transmission. Those that inject heroin tend to become addicted faster, since injecting delivers a fast track to euphoria.

Like other drugs, heroin attaches to the brain receptors and stimulates the release of pleasurable chemicals. The thrill is typically followed by a heavy period of sedation, in which the user drifts in and out of consciousness. Users report flu-like symptoms, or becoming “junk sick” after ceasing the opiate, which compels them to take the drug again to get rid of symptoms. The intense withdrawal, combined with the rush of pleasure, make heroin addiction particularly persistent.


Imagine eating your favorite meal at the best restaurant you know. It feels amazing, right? According to research, your body experiences a spike of 350 units of pleasurable chemicals during a delicious meal. Now compare that to meth, which induces a surge of a whopping 1,250 units.

This hugely addictive drug delivers big, fast changes in the brain and body. But what goes up must go down, and the body compensates for this gigantic “high” with a crash so intense that users will continue taking meth just to avoid it.

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Mere moments after taking the stimulant, users of cocaine report feeling indescribable waves of pleasure that leave their whole body pulsing. But the drug wears off just as suddenly, leaving users dissatisfied and wanting to chase their next high. Because of cocaine’s sudden onset and rapid decay, addicts will follow one hit with another, incurring significant brain damage. It takes very little time for a user to be converted into an addict. The speedy onset, combined with users’ tendencies to binge during use, merits a place for this drug near the top of the list of addictive narcotics.

Prescription Painkillers

We often hear about street drugs like heroin and meth tearing families apart, but in terms of addiction, some “permissible” substances have a huge capacity to cause serious harm. Prescription painkillers, for example, are on the rise toward becoming some of the most dangerous substances. Many people become addicted to painkillers after being prescribed them for an injury or to manage pain after an operation.

Of these prescription painkillers, the opioid OxyContin may be the most notorious. OxyContin contains oxycodone, which is prescribed to alleviate pain but also causes floods of euphoria similar to heroin. Like heroin, repeated use of this opioid overwhelms the system with dopamine, conditioning the brain to the presence of drugs. The body starts to believe it needs the drug to survive, and so addiction begins.

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Prescription Amphetamines

Like OxyContin, prescription medications like Ritalin can be a lifesaver for people with the appropriate conditions. But when abused, prescription amphetamines can be on par with cocaine in terms of brain damage, since they interfere with the same chemical pathways. Those who take the drug orally face a much lower risk of addiction than those who snort it, since it takes longer for the substances to reach the brain. Those that crush and snort the pills, however, can feel changes in their body in as little as four minutes, making them more likely to abuse the drug in the future.

Treatment for the Most Addictive Drugs

Treatment options for highly addictive drugs include a medically-supervised detox, along with a program that includes behavioral therapies and counseling. Withdrawal from these substances can be painful, so it’s best to seek the guidance of trained medical professionals.

No matter what substance has caused you or your loved one distress, treatment programs can help. Programs offer a wide range of services to give you the support and confidence to make the transition from a life controlled by drugs to a life of purpose. Call us today to find out how to start on the road to recovery, and a life of sobriety.