Substance use disorder is a disease that affects millions of Americans every year. This disease is characterized by an intense and continuous urge to use a substance despite understanding the negative consequences. This urge stems from drugs interacting with the brain’s pleasure center, providing short-term relief to challenging emotions followed by unpleasant withdrawal symptoms.
Learning which drugs are the most addictive is essential to understanding substance use disorder and how treatment can help. Contact 855.732.4842 to learn about Rockland Recovery’s substance abuse treatment programs.
What Are the Most Addictive Drugs?
Any drug can be addictive, yet some are more addictive than others due to multiple components. This includes how the drug impacts the brain, the availability, and the frequency a person uses the drug. Highly addictive drugs share many similarities, including stronger euphoric feelings, withdrawal symptoms, and drug cravings. The most addictive drugs are heroin, cocaine, meth, and prescription opioids. With repeated use of these drugs, the body decreases the production of neurotransmitters such as dopamine and norepinephrine. Drug addiction is a serious disease that requires professional treatment, and education is the first step toward recovery.
Heroin is considered one of the most addictive and commonly abused substances globally. This illegal opioid is not only fast acting but also provides extreme feelings of euphoria, relaxation, and pain relief. Dependence develops quickly, and the withdrawal symptoms are severe. Heroin withdrawal takes both physical and emotional tolls on a person, with symptoms including fever, shakes, depression, and anxiety.
People struggling with substance use disorder continue to use it in an attempt to reach the euphoric high, as well as to avoid or suppress withdrawal symptoms. However, as dependence progresses, those feelings of relief are more challenging to attain, and withdrawal symptoms worsen without the drug. In addition to the rapid development of dependence and painful withdrawal symptoms, heroin is also relatively cheap and easy to access, only aiding the physical addiction.
Cocaine is classified as a stimulant drug, meaning that it increases alertness, energy, and excitement. The onset of these effects is quick, short-lived, and followed by a sudden crash leaving the user mentally and physically fatigued. Users often take this illegal drug multiple times in a row to maintain its effects, so people struggling with addiction tend to seek out higher and more frequent doses.
Like heroin, cocaine is readily available, inexpensive, and causes intense drug cravings. Cocaine differentiates itself from heroin when it comes to withdrawal symptoms. Although both drugs have physical and emotional symptoms, cocaine withdrawal is focused on emotional symptoms, whereas heroin users experience more significant physical symptoms.
Another highly-addictive stimulant drug is methamphetamine, also known as meth. Unlike cocaine, which is derived from the coca plant, meth is a synthetic substance made in a laboratory. This drug creates heightened feelings of excitement, pleasure, and focus and inhibits sleep and appetite. High levels of meth can cause aggression, psychosis, and death. The aftereffects of meth include depression, suicidal ideation, and drug cravings.
Like heroin, tolerance and dependence on meth develop quickly, which incites increased drug dose and frequency. With frequent use, meth inhibits the brain from naturally emitting dopamine, leading to severe withdrawal symptoms, drug-seeking behavior, and continued substance abuse. These factors combined make methamphetamine one of the most addictive drugs known to humans.
Prescription opioids are painkillers to ease physical pain for various medical conditions. Doctors may prescribe an opioid to a person after an injury, surgery, or chronic illness. As with heroin, cocaine, and meth, prescription opioids release dopamine in the brain and, with abuse, lead to drug-seeking behavior. However, it is crucial to understand that when prescription opioids are appropriately used, they are effective medications. Although this class of drugs is legal, unlike the substances mentioned above, they are regularly abused.
A few commonly prescribed opioids are:
- Oxycodone (OxyContin)
- Hydrocodone (Vicodin)
Although these are prescribed medications, the issue arises when people are overprescribed, continue to take the drug after it is no longer necessary, or share it with others. Notably, methadone is prescribed to clients in Substance Abuse Treatment Programs to ease heroin withdrawal symptoms. Clients recovering from heroin addiction should be closely monitored and slowly tapered off.
Despite requiring a prescription to obtain these drugs legally, they are frequently sold illegally outside the medical setting and, therefore, easily obtained. Prescription opioids are highly addictive, some of the most commonly abused drugs, and require close monitoring by medical professionals.
Substance Abuse Treatment at Rockland Recovery
Heroin, cocaine, methamphetamines, and prescription opioids are the most addictive drugs in the world. That does not mean that achieving recovery is impossible with the proper care. At Rockland Recovery, we offer a wide range of substance abuse treatment programs for clients struggling with drug addiction.
We understand how daunting the road to recovery looks and are here to help you begin that journey. If you or a loved one is struggling with substance abuse, learn more about the substance abuse treatment programs available at Rockland Recovery by calling 855.732.4842.