Top 10 Most Addictive Drugs in the World

We're witnessing an epidemic of drug addicts in America, but what are the most addictive drugs? The answer is very important because you may find that this issue is closer to home than you initially thought. As you'll learn in this video, it's not just the illegal drugs we have to worry about today.

Substance abuse is a multifaceted problem that affects addicts, as well, as those closest to them. Read below, to learn which are the top 10 most addictive drugs in the world, and how they affect those struggling with substance addiction.

From 2002 to 2015, the United States saw overdose-related death rates increase more than six-fold. Addiction eats at the heart of the afflicted individual, their family, and friends.

Our society regards addiction as using illegal street drugs. But, that is an incorrect perception. Addiction can originate from life crisis, physical injuries, and biological predispositions.

Illegal substances are not the problem for most suffering from substance addiction and abuse. Legal substances, like alcohol, painkillers, and prescription medications are the most abused substances.

Read below to learn about the most addictive substances, and, learn about different methods of treatment.

Why do People Take Addictive Substances?

Individuals come to use addictive substances for several reasons. Addiction is a chemical change in your brains' pleasure and reward receptors. For this reason, addiction takes on many catalytic forms of entry.

No one wants to become addicted. You did not start out on this road to end up in a pit of dependency. Some choose to alter their minds state for fun, and some to escape. Many encounter mind-altering drugs by a medical prescription. Pain - whether physical, mental or emotional - is the most common inciter to drug addiction.

Painkillers are a blessing to those recovering from severe injuries, yet, they can lead to a dependency problem.

Disease or Learned Behavior?

There is a debate, on whether addiction is a disease or a behavioral decision. The evidence suggests that the truth is in-between.

You are born with a genetic switchboard, containing "on" or "off" genetic options. Through your formative years of childhood development, your experiences affect your genetic switchboard.

Everyone has many similar genetic switchboard options at birth and some that differ. You might be born with a genetic switch for addiction-prone behavior. But, it could remain "off" for your entire life.

Or, you might not have a genetic predisposition to addictive behavior. But, addiction can still develop.

There are three factors involved in the formation of an addiction:


Biological risk factors for developing an addiction include your genes, sex, family tree, and disorders of the brain and DNA.


The environmental, or "nurture" factor is wide-spanning and varied. Everything that you do and experience affect environmental risk factors for addiction.


Biological and environmental factors contribute to the beginning of a drug habit. Neurological factors are responsible for the perpetuation of drug addiction.

Addictive drugs produce pleasure chemicals in the brain and alter your neurological balance.

You can find out about participating in clinical trials using the National Institute on Drug Abuse clinical trial search.

Top 10 Most Addictive Drugs in the World

As of March 2018, the National Institute on Drug Abuse has declared an endemic Opioid Overdose Crisis. Opioids make up the vast majority of legally prescribed pharmaceutical pain relievers, as well, as some illicit substances - such as heroin.

See a complete updated list of all prescription opioids at Read a data overview of the opioid overdose epidemic, from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

1. Alcohol

The most addictive drug in the world is Alcohol which is why there are so many alcohol addiction centers in the U.S. The reason for alcohols addictive nature stems from the acceptance of our culture.

Alcohol originates from the need for clean drinking water. Fermentation was discovered to kill harmful bacterias in water. Even up until the late 18th century, clean drinking water was more scarce than ale, or cider. Human societies that harnessed the power of fermentation showed evolutionary superiority.

Today, alcohol has long surpassed its use as an alternative to clean drinking water. Alcohol is the most underestimated and consumed addictive substance on the planet.

Alcohol activates endorphins and dopamine in the brain. These neurotransmitters produce a temporary sensation of calm and happiness.

The extra dopamine in your brain, produced by drinking, causes it to accommodate the influx.

The majority of addictions start with the production of excess Dopamine, Epinephrine, or Serotonin in the brain.

Once the brain readjusts its dopamine production level, users become dependent. The induced feeling of happiness and relaxation requires more and more alcohol.

The public is, often, resistant to the assertion that alcohol trumps all other addictive substances in its severity. The myths perpetuated are that of an addicts justification.

Learn more about the myths about alcoholism that are widely perpetuated.

2. Amphetamines

Amphetamines, such as Adderall, are psychologically addictive when used regularly. Amphetamines are a stimulant that affects the central nervous system. Users experience a heightened energy state and stimulation of the brains reward center.

With prolonged use, amphetamines can produce psychologically addictive effects. Users associate the consumption of amphetamines with a feeling of reward and gratification.

Amphetamine is the parent compound to others in its structural class. These are called substituted amphetamines. These compounds include substances like methamphetamine, MDMA, bupropion - and others.

Though amphetamines are psychologically addictive, they are not considered to be physically addictive. This is because withdrawal symptoms are not expressed through physical degradation.

Amphetamines are a stimulant, whereas, opioids are the class of drugs most attributed to physical addiction.

3. Benzodiazepines

Benzodiazepines or "Benzos" are a psychoactive depressant. They slow the and depress the bodies central nervous system, and, are used to treat anxiety, withdrawal, and insomnia.

Due to Benzos short half-life, users easily develop a tolerance to the effects of the drug. This often leads to over-use and abusive behavior of the drug, in seeking to meet the users chemically dependent need.

Xanax and other popular pharmaceutical anti-anxiety medications are Benzodiazepine. Doctors prescribe these medications for a range of symptoms.

In the event of becoming addicted to a benzodiazepine-based drug, a comprehensive detox program is necessary. Learn all the ways to know its time to go to rehab.

4. Cocaine (Powder)

Cocaine, as it is known as "coke," is a refined powder substance derived from the Coca plant. Cocaine is most commonly used as a recreational drug, often being snorted in its powder form. It also takes form as an inhalant, smoke, or injectable.

The drug produces noticeable effects within seconds of consumption. Users of cocaine risk forming a physical dependency after as little as a single session of use.

Cocaine strongly stimulates the brains reward pathways for a short period of time. Consumption of cocaine forces your brain to produce serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine. The result is a state of adrenaline-induced euphoria, energy, and satisfaction.

These effects are short-lived, as, cocaine has a short half-life. With continued use, users need a higher dosage to experience a heightened mental state. First-time users may experience the euphoric effects for up to ninety minutes, while, a regular users effects will last for as little as five.

Heavy doses of cocaine raise an individuals' blood pressure and body temperature. Repeated use can lead to stroke, internal infections, respiratory problems, and cardiac arrest.

Cocaine depletes the brains chemical ability to produce natural reward neuropathways, very fast. Cocaines ability to hook a user after limited use makes it a dangerous substance.

What separates the recreational user from an addict, is still unknown. What is known, is the likelihood of addiction to cocaine goes up every time you use.

5. Cocaine (Rock / Crack)

Crack cocaine, or "crack rock" is chemically identical to powder cocaine. But, crack cocaine is commonly formed by mixing baking soda with powder cocaine. Unlike how powdered cocaine is snorted, crack cocaine is smoked through a pipe.

Crack cocaine smoke carries the active chemicals to a users bloodstream faster than that of snorting cocaine. The effects of crack are more intense than that of its powder form, and, more short-lived.

As a user comes down from a crack high, significant psychological withdrawal symptoms will set on. Crack cocaine withdrawal includes depression, extreme agitation, severe insomnia, and high-anxiety.

6. Crystal Meth (Methamphetamine)

Crystal meth, or methamphetamine, is a neurotoxin to the human brain. Unlike amphetamines, use of methamphetamine will damage your central nervous systems' serotonin neurons. It also will reduce the gray matter and metabolic functions of the brain.

Crystal Meth is highly addictive because it triggers the brain to produce high amounts of dopamine. The effects include euphoric sensations, high alertness, heightened energy, hyper-focus, and heightened libido.

Side effects of crystal meth include anxiety, depression, suicidal tendencies, and extreme aggression.

High dosages of crystal meth, over a long period of time, will cause degradation of your body. This includes psychosis, degradation of skeletal muscle, and internal bleeding of the brain. Chronic use also causes random mood swings, paranoid feelings, hallucination, and delusional states.

7. Heroin (Diamorphine)

Heroin is the most recognized illicit opiate. One can consume it by mouth, injection, smoking, snorting, or by suppository. Heroin is most recognized for its extremely euphoric and addictive effects.

If you or a loved one is a heroin user, read up on how to safely detox from opiates.

Injecting heroin produces twice, to three times the psychoactive effect of morphine. After injection, or consumption by other means, the effects of heroin are nearly immediate and last for several hours. Users may experience side effects of dry mouth, decreased respiration, and rapid onset of dependency.

Initially, after the first use, the withdrawal symptoms of heroin may not be plain. But, continued use leads to withdrawal a few hours after the last hit.

Heroin looks like a brown or white powder and can be mistaken for cocaine. Heroin overdose causes more deaths in the United States than any other opioid.

Heroin addiction can be treated through behavioral therapy and medical treatments.

8. Methadone

Methadone is a synthesized opiate, made in a laboratory. It acts to block the effects and symptoms of heroin and many other addictive opioids. It is used in the treatment of pain and opioid substance abuse, but, is no less addictive an opiate.

The effects of methadone are like that of morphine, and dependency is almost guaranteed. The symptoms of methadone withdrawal are parallel - more intense even - than that of heroin.

Read up on how rehabilitation centers use methadone for medically managed withdrawal.

9. Nicotine

Nicotines negative side effects are the leading preventable cause of disease in the world. Nicotine is a highly addictive substance. It is most often consumed through cigarette tobacco or smokeless tobacco.

Nicotine is, also, consumed through vapor, via vape-pens. There is a perception that vapor presents mitigated health risks, as opposed to smoking. Yet, nicotine, itself, is a major cause of health problems among users.

Nicotine is addictive because it is mistaken for acetylcholine, in the brain. The brain chemistry alters to accommodate more receptors. This alteration is the cause of nicotine dependency.

10. OxyContin

OxyCotin is a name brand of a semisynthetic opioid, called oxycodone. The substances alkaloid is found in Persian and Opium poppies.

OxyContin is a medically prescribed opioid for pain management and is half again as strong as morphine. The majority of teen and adult oxycodone addictions begin with a doctor prescribed opiate medication.

If the patient discontinues regular use of the drug, they will experience severe withdrawal symptoms. This is especially true if a dependency has already formed. Prescribed OxyContin includes instructions on weaning off the medication, to mitigate withdrawal symptoms.

The user experiences a state of euphoria, akin to that of the effects of heroin. Like all pharmaceutical opiates, OxyContin dependency can lead one to take up heroin or other street opiates.

Be an Advocate

The right time to get treatment is now. Don't let addiction control your future. Admitting you have an addiction problem is the first step towards recovery. Don't be afraid to open up to your friends, family or colleagues about your problem.

If someone you love suffers from addiction, don't wait. Call the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) national helpline, at 1-800-622-HELP (4357). And, visit the SAMHSA national helpline website for more information.