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most addictive drugs

The Most Addictive Drugs

When it comes to creating a list of the most addictive drugs, so many factors come to play that it’s nearly impossible to decipher which one is the worst accurately. However, a few criteria are used to determine the potential for addiction of each drug, including:

  • The extent to which each drug activates the brain’s reward system
  • How pleasurable the drug is to people
  • The degree of which the drug causes withdrawal symptoms
  • How easily can someone develop a dependence
  • How much physical and cognitive damage the drug causes
  • The street value of such drug

Let’s explore some of the most addictive drugs out there, in no particular order.

Prescription Drugs

Prescription drugs treat acute to chronic pain conditions. However, most prescription drugs have a high potential for addiction and misuse. When people start misusing prescription drugs, they’re more likely to develop a physical dependence that causes them to increase their doses without medical supervision. Eventually, when they try to stop taking the pills, they experience adverse withdrawal symptoms that cause them to go back to using. 


Heroin is injected or snorted and converts into morphine in the brain and attaches to opioid receptors. This creates a euphoric rush that results in dry mouth and heavy arms and legs feeling. Other common effects while doing heroin are nausea, vomiting, and severe itching.

When the effects of heroin wear off, the user will begin to feel drowsy and have slowed breathing along with feeling foggy ad mentally slow. Once addiction occurs, it is easy to build up a tolerance and use higher doses to feel the same high before.


An estimated 14-20 million people worldwide use cocaine and it’s one of the most addictive drugs. Cocaine, which comes from the coca plant, can be snorted, smoked, or injected. Cocaine is highly addictive, and the effects last around two hours of euphoria. When the effects of cocaine wear off, there will be depression, anxiety, agitation, and paranoia following. An estimated 21 percent of people who try cocaine will become addicted at some point in their lifetime.


Alcohol is legal for those over the age of 21 in the United States. Many people tend to abuse the moderation rule because it can be an addictive substance. Drinking alcohol regularly and without moderation can lead to side effects like liver damage, violence, and destructive behavior. It can also cause or be a result of depression or other mental illnesses.

Studies show that alcohol abuse can completely rewire the brain, by overwhelming the brain with dopamine by as much as 360 percent. While alcohol is legal, it’s responsible for 3 million deaths every year.


More than two-thirds of Americans who tried cigarettes or chewing tobacco report being dependent at some point during their lifetime. Similar to alcohol, nicotine-based products, and tobacco products are legal drugs that are very much approved by society. However, unlike other drugs, nicotine addiction statistics and facts are well-known by the general population.

Today, teenagers are young adults who are amongst the primary users for e-cigarettes and vaping devices that contain high levels of nicotine and can be highly addictive.

Crystal Meth

Crystal meth is a form of methamphetamine made illegally in meth labs. While all varieties of man-made drugs are dangerous, crystal meth is one of the most potent. People typically smoke crystal meth, but it can also be snorted or injected. Users instantly experience an intense high and sense of euphoria. 

However, at higher levels, crystal meth can produce drug-induced psychosis and aggressive behavior. Crystal meth is a highly addictive drug, rewiring the brain and making it less able to produce dopamine on its own. 


Similar to meth, amphetamines are stimulants drugs. However, these drugs are legal and often prescribed for ADHD. Adderall is one of the most popular forms of amphetamines, and it has become so popular it found its way to the streets. When people use these types of drugs without a medical prescription, they can be highly addictive. Side effects of amphetamines include trouble speaking, insomnia, heart problems, and dizziness. 


Another form of prescription drugs that help with anxiety. Also known as benzos, popular benzodiazepines include Xanax and Valium. These prescription drugs do have a high potential for addiction and withdrawal complications. Like prescription drugs, benzos are meant for short-term use, when someone misuses them, they’re likely to develop a dependence on these substances and have a higher risk of addiction. 


Before benzos, barbiturates were the go-to prescription for anxiety. Nowadays, these depressants help with epilepsy treatment and other conditions. However, unlike other prescription medications, barbiturate’s potential for addiction is well-known. Withdrawal symptoms from these drugs are similar to those related to alcohol and can be very serious and even include death.

Seeking Help for Addiction

If you or a loved one is struggling with substance use disorders, know there’s help available. It doesn’t matter if you’re struggling with one or more of the most addictive drugs out there. At Lighthouse Recovery Institute, our dual diagnosis programs and addiction center can help you assess addiction from every angle. 

Treatment Options

Inpatient Programs: These offer a temptation-free environment to help people in recovery. In this case, people check into a living drug rehab facility, and they attend meetings and therapy sessions while remaining in a supervised environment. 

Outpatient Programs: For those with a mild addiction, an outpatient rehab program might be an option. In this case, they have a more flexible program that allows them to maintain their daily schedule and responsibilities like attending school, work, or caring for their family. 

Medication-Assisted Programs: While rare, long-time addicts might experience the worse withdrawal symptoms. To prevent these symptoms from harming them physically and psychologically, a physician might recommend specific prescription medications to help through the withdrawal process under a medically supervised program.

Individual Therapy: Beyond the detox process, it’s paramount to tackle the addiction. Through individual therapy, people can understand what drives addictive behavior and see if there’s an underlying cause of their addiction. 

Group Therapy: Building a strong and sober support team is a critical element of addiction recovery. By attending group meetings or 12-step programs, individuals can continue their sober life and continue to learn relapse prevention techniques, even months after detox. 

Aftercare Programs: Addiction isn’t one thing people can shove under the rug. The remnants of addiction often stay with them for the rest of their life. To help users find happiness and purpose in their lives, aftercare programs offer relapse prevention classes, life skills, and other essential tools for a successful life after treatment. 

At Lighthouse Recovery Institute, we believe in offering customized drug addiction treatment plans. We look at each program on a case-by-case basis to cater to whatever your needs are to get better and walk towards recovery. From detoxification programs to group meetings and more, everyone in our team is committed to helping you win the battle of addiction. 

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