5 Most Addictive Substances Around the World

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addictive substancesA recent article on CNN.com brought up an interesting question: What are the most addictive substances? Of course, the answer is far from simple and varies according to the points of view of different addiction experts and researchers, some who even say that no drug is always addictive. The potential for a drug to be addictive was based on several factors including:

  • The harm it causes
  • The street value of the drug
  • The extent to which the drug activates the brain’s dopamine system (or how pleasurable the drug is reported to be)
  • The degree to which the drug causes symptoms of withdrawal
  • How easily a person trying the drug can become hooked
  • Whether the drug is snorted, injected or smoked

Based on these and other factors, an expert of panels identified the top five addictive drugs. Here is the summary of the results:

  1. Heroin: This drug was given a score of 3 out of 3 and was found to cause the level of dopamine in the brain’s reward system to increase by up to 200% in animal studies. What’s more, heroin was rated the second most harmful drug in terms of damage to both users and to society.
  2. Cocaine: Crack cocaine was ranked as the third most damaging drug and powdered cocaine was ranked as the fifth most damaging. According to animal studies, cocaine causes dopamine levels to rise more than three times the normal level. And more than 20 percent of those who try cocaine will become dependent on the drug at some point in their lifetime.
  3. Nicotine: The main addictive ingredient of tobacco, nicotine was rated as the third most addictive substance. In fact, more than two-thirds of Americans who try smoking will become hooked. The drug causes dopamine levels in the brain’s reward system to rise by about 25% to 40%, according to animal studies.
  4. Barbiturates: Known as blue bullets, gorillas, nembies, barbs and pink ladies, barbiturates were rated as the fourth most addictive substance. Dependency on this class of drugs, which was initially used to treat anxiety and insomnia, has declined since it’s no longer easily available by prescription.
  5. Alcohol: Study-proven to increase dopamine levels by 40% to 360%, alcohol scored a 1.9 out of 3. According to experts, some 22 percent of people who have taken a drink will develop dependency in their lifetime.

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NorthStar’s Denver and Boulder recovery centers treat a wide range of addictions, including heroin addiction, cocaine addition, prescription drug addiction and alcoholism. To learn more about how we can help you or someone you love start your sobriety journey, call today: 303-416-6867.