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Drug Addiction: What is the Most Addictive Drug?

Any drug has the potential for addiction, but to understand what makes the most addictive drug, we have to look at the effects it has on individuals and the propensity for addiction, with factors such as genetics and environmental influences. Discover what experts identify as being the most addictive drug in the U.S.  

Main Properties of Drug Addictive Influence

Overall, 5 main properties influence a drug’s potential for addiction. They are:
  • Tolerance
  • Intoxication
  • Reinforcement
  • Dependence
  • Withdrawal
Most individuals experiment with drugs, not to get addicted, but to experience the reactions. As they say, “Curiosity killed the cat,” which unfortunately can happen to anyone. Yet, numerous studies showcase what specific drugs do to a person’s body and brain. However, since we’re all unique, not everyone has the same reaction. Is there one drug more addictive in nature than all others? How quickly does addiction develop from using said drug?   

Definition of Addiction

Let’s turn to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) to understand precisely what addiction is. They put addiction in terms of “patterns of substance abuse-related behaviors” that fall into the following categories:
  • Impaired control – you experience physical cravings and overwhelming urges to use. Any attempts to reduce or stop using altogether fail despite an intense urgency to do so.
  • Social problems – there are significant problems at home, school, work, or in relationships; you stop doing activities you would otherwise enjoy to use the substance.
  • Risky use – you put yourself in settings or situations that could be or are dangerous so you can continue your addiction.
  • Drug effects – you experience physical signs of dependence like needing more of the substance to get the same high as when you first started. (tolerance) You also experience physical withdrawal when you do stop, which can vary depending on the substance.

The Most Addictive Legal Drug

Nicotine – the main ingredient in cigarettes, e-cigs, and vapes – is legal and sold in grocery stores, convenience stores, and drug stores, among other places; it’s also very addictive. Although smoking is addictive, many don’t consider nicotine as a drug. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 18.8% of adults (40 million people) in the U.S. smoked cigarettes in 2014. Nicotine is responsible for more than 480,000 deaths yearly (the leading preventable cause of death in the U.S.)   The reason why it’s so addicting is that nicotine goes straight to your brain and acts on its reward pathways by manipulating the neurotransmitter dopamine. When the hormone is released when smoking, it makes you feel good, relaxed and entices you to continue smoking. Once dependence sets in, after you try and quit, you can start feeling the opposite effects like depression, anxiety, and tiredness. You then don’t like those feelings, so you start smoking again, which leads to addiction.  

The Most Addictive Illegal Drug

According to DrugWarFacts.org, heroin is the leading addictive illicit drug. In comparison to other drugs, heroin scored a 5 or 6 (6 being the highest) in all key areas. Moreover, heroin is classified as a Schedule 1 drug, which means it has extreme potential for addiction. When heroin enters the body, it’s converted to morphine and then binds to the brain’s opioid receptors. You get an immediate and intense feeling of euphoria — this is the high that many people continue to chase as they descend into addiction.   Alarmingly, heroin can be addictive after only ONE use in some people. It’s also easy to develop a tolerance to it quickly, so the body will continue to want it more. Even though the intense euphoria subsides with continued use, it will continue to depress life-sustaining processes like breathing; this increases your risk of overdosing because you will increase the doses to achieve the same high.  

Beat Addiction with Ardu Recovery Center

If you have trouble abstaining from the most addictive drug (legal or illegal) and want rehabilitation and support from a recovery center trained to treat these issues, please contact Ardu Recovery Center. We understand your plight and have a caring staff that wants the best for you. Reach out and take that first step to recovery today.