There are many drugs and even some behaviors that can facilitate the development of an addiction, but some drugs come with a higher risk of dependence than others. To learn which drugs you should be most wary of, check out the round up below. 

1. Heroin And Opiates

Nearly a quarter of those who try heroin are thought to become addicted to the drug, with some users even becoming addicted instantly. Somewhat less powerful but also highly addictive are prescription opiates, which include drugs like Vicodin (hydrocodone), Oxycontin, and Percocet (oxycodone.) 

Along with spurring the brain’s release of the reward chemical dopamine, opiates act on the brain’s opioid receptors, producing a sensation of relaxation and euphoria as well as sedation and out of body sensations. However, it can also cause lethargy, poor judgement, and dangerous respiratory depression at relatively low doses compared to the amount of other drugs needed to overdose.

Many people who go on to use heroin begin by abusing prescription opioids before switching to the stronger, cheaper, and faster acting form of the drug, which, along with its high overdose rate, makes for a deadly cocktail that has fueled a nationwide epidemic of addiction and tragic deaths.

Detoxing from heroin can result in withdrawal symptoms like intense cravings, flu-like symptoms, diarrhea, nausea and vomiting, muscle aches, intense depression, insomnia, and anxiety. Though these symptoms are not generally dangerous (though in rare cases deaths have occurred due to dehydration from vomiting), they can be highly uncomfortable, and avoidance of these symptoms prompts many heroin users to keep at it just to avoid them. 

2. Cocaine

Cocaine molecular structure. Cocaine skeletal chemical formula. Chemical molecular formula vector illustration

Cocaine, a drug that comes from the coca plant, is also highly addictive, causing sensations of euphoria and excitement. It typically comes in a powdered form that is snorted or in a faster acting, stronger, and thus even more addictive rock or “crack” form that is usually smoked. Cocaine results in a short lived high and thus can cause an almost immediate urge to consume more cocaine, with some users going on long binges of getting high for days on end and then crashing into depressive lows. 

About one out of every five people who try it become addicted and around 20 million abuse it worldwide. Since overdose comes with the risk of stroke, cardiac arrest, heart failure, and psychosis, this drug is intensely dangerous along with being intensely addictive, part of the reason it is classified as a Schedule II controlled substance by the DEA. While withdrawal from cocaine is also not thought to be physically dangerous, it can cause intense depression and cravings that could make it psychologically dangerous because of the risk of relapse or suicide. 

3. Alcohol

Despite its legal status, alcohol is both a highly addictive drug and a commonly abused one, with as many as one in 12 adults thought to be alcohol abusers and rates of abuse and dependence only having increased over the pandemic. The drug is a depressant that causes symptoms like disinhibition, sedation, and impaired coordination, while also causing the brain to release dopamine and endorphins, resulting in rewarding feelings of relaxation, joy, and euphoria that make it hard to give up. 

Alcohol can also be a particularly difficult drug to give up using because it is so easy to access and so commonly used in social circumstances. Alcohol abuse can also eventually result in physical dependence, which can cause withdrawal symptoms like tremors, anxiety, depression, and insomnia. It can also cause physically dangerous symptoms like psychosis, seizures, and irregular heart rate, so detox should typically be done only under medical supervision. 

3. Nicotine

smoking a cigarette smoke. woman smoking an e-cigarette. Glamorous smoke electronic cigarette.

Though nicotine is legal and less likely than more intoxicating substances to lead someone to a life-altering rock bottom, it is still a highly dangerous and highly addictive drug. The fact that nicotine only produces mild stimulant effects means that its use will typically not interfere with one’s daily obligations or cognizance, but nicotine-containing cigarettes, the most commonly used form of the drug, notably increase the risk of serious and sometimes fatal illnesses like cancer, heart and lung disease, diabetes, and strokes.

The drug is also fast-acting, taking effect in less than ten seconds, and can result in cravings for another cigarette soon after. More than 32 million Americans over the age of twelve smoke cigarettes daily, two thirds of people who have used nicotine have reported feeling dependent on it, and 85 percent of smokers who try to quit on their own relapse. Nicotine withdrawal is characterized by unpleasant symptoms like irritability, increased appetite, fatigue, anxiety, depression, and trouble concentrating, as well as by strong cravings for nicotine. 

4. Methamphetamines

Somewhat similarly to cocaine, methamphetamines are stimulant drugs that produce a short intense euphoric high characterized by excitability and pleasure. However, crystal meth can be up to three times as powerful and even more addictive, and has the additional effect of coming with the risk of brain damage that makes it harder for the brain to produce reward chemicals like dopamine and norepinephrine, leading to a decrease in the ability to experience pleasure in everyday life. Methamphetamine use an also come with the risk of psychosis, aggression, and organ damage. 

5. Benzodiazepines

Benzodiazepines are a class of sedative-hypnotic drugs commonly prescribed for anxiety in the form of medications like Xanax, Valium, Klonopin, and Ativan. They work by provoking the brain to produce a calming chemical called GABA, which means that they can offer an addictive euphoric high and a feeling of relaxation as well as well as ease tension and nervousness. 

Regular use of benzodiazepines is likely to result in tolerance and dependence, as receptors become less sensitive to GABA and more of the drug is needed to achieve the same effect. Withdrawal from benzodiazepines can include symptoms like insomnia, anxiety, panic attacks, and muscular pain and stiffness. It can also cause potentially fatal symptoms like seizures in certain circumstances, so detox should be done in a controlled, medically supervised environment. 

Get Help For Addiction Or Withdrawal

To learn more about addiction to and withdrawal from these and other drugs, or for help in finding the appropriate form of treatment for yourself or a loved one, feel free to contact us anytime at (833) 489-5577 or online anytime here.

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