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The 10 Most Addictive Substances on Earth

Do you know what the 10 most addictive substances on the planet are? Researchers studied 20 substances, and we tell you the top 10.

 What Are the 10 Most Addictive Substances on Earth?

A study published in the medical journal The Lancet assessed 20 substances to determine the harm of each drug. Researchers divided the parameters into three categories: physical harm, dependence, and social harms. The results of the dependence category were used to determine the 10 most addictive substances on earth.

Dependence was split into 3 determining factors: intensity of pleasure, psychological dependence, and physical dependence. Highly pleasurable drugs are commonly abused because of the initial affect and the euphoria that follows. Psychological dependence is characterized by repeated use of a drug, the fear of stopping, and negative consequences and physical dependence involves increasing tolerance, cravings, and withdrawal symptoms.

Below is a list of how each drug scored based on dependence.

1. Heroin

Heroin is an opioid drug made from Morphine. Its mean score for dependence was highest at 3·00. It also had the highest scores in the other two categories. Heroin users feel a rush of euphoria after injecting, snorting, or smoking the drug. It doesn’t take long to develop a tolerance to Heroin, and users will need to keep increasing their dose to get the same effect. Nasty withdrawal symptoms motivate users to continue using the drug. Common signs of withdrawal are severe muscle and bone pain, diarrhea and vomiting, restlessness, cold flashes, and uncontrollable leg movements. Long term effects of Opioid addiction can result in loss of white matter in the brain, which affects decision making and behavior control.

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2. Cocaine

Cocaine’s score was second at 2·39. The white powdery drug is typically inhaled through the nose and is a stimulant made from the leaves of the coca plant. Drug dealers often mix it with other substances such as cornstarch, talcum powder, or flour to increase profits. it is also very common for dealers to cut Cocaine with other drugs such as Fentanyl, greatly increasing the risk of overdose. Cocaine increases dopamine levels in the brain, and frequent use stops normal communication between nerve cells. That means your brain becomes less sensitive to dopamine and users must increase the amount they use to feel happy. Common withdrawal symptoms are depression, nightmares and insomnia, fatigue, and slowed thinking. Users who snort cocaine may experience loss of smell, nosebleeds, runny nose, and problems swallowing. Those who ingest the drug can have severe bowel decay.

3. Tobacco

The addictive nature of tobacco is one of the reasons it is so widely used around the word. The common and legal substance had a dependence score of 2·21, and it may be shocking to some that it holds third place on this list. The nicotine contained in tobacco leaves are what fuels those addicted to it. Users are most likely smoke cigarettes but can also use pipes, cigars, and dip to get their fix. Withdrawal symptoms start with a powerful craving for tobacco, followed by irritability, trouble sleeping, issues paying attention, and an increased appetite. About 34 million adults smoke cigarettes, and the states with the most smokers are West Virginia, Kentucky, and Louisiana. States with the least cigarette smokers are Utah and California.

4. Street Methadone

Despite the fact that Methadone is intended to help Heroin and narcotic painkiller addicts control cravings, it is still often abused. It had a low pleasure score on the factors for dependence but ranked high in psychological and physical dependence with a mean score of 2·08. It is available as a tablet, oral solution, or injectable liquid. According to the Department of Justice, some of its street names are amidone, chocolate chip cookies, fizzies, Maria, pastora, salvia, and wafer. Withdrawal symptoms include anxiety, muscle tremors, nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, and abdominal cramps.

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5. Barbiturates

Barbiturates are depressants and had a mean score of 2·01 for dependence. They produce a wide spectrum of central nervous system depression ranging from mild sedation to coma. They come in pill form but are also abused by injecting a liquid form into the user’s body. There are many types, but some common generic names are Amobarbital, Pentobarbital, Phenobarbital, Secobarbital, and Tuinal. They cause mild euphoria, lack of inhibition, anxiety relief, and sleepiness. Withdrawal symptoms can start on the second day after discontinued use and include seizures, dizziness, anxiety, insomnia, and psychosis. If not treated, Barbiturates can result in hypothermia, circulatory failure, and death.

6. Alcohol

Alcohol is the most widely used psychoactive drug in America. Over 86% of adults have consumed alcohol, and there are over 14 million adults with an alcohol use disorder right now. Alcohol comes in sixth on the list of 10 most addictive substances with a score of 1·93. It ranked high in the pleasure category, and it makes sense that most people consume alcohol to relax or celebrate. However, excessive drinking has a long list of associated health issues including high blood pressure, alcohol poisoning, stroke, memory problems, depression, and anxiety. Withdrawal from alcohol can cause delirium tremens which can result in death. Other horrible symptoms include tremors, hallucinations, and seizures.

7. Benzodiazepines

Benzodiazepines (Benzos) are some of the most commonly prescribed medications in the US and help reduce anxiety and seizures, relax muscles, and help users sleep. They are also commonly abused because of their addictive properties and have a 1·83 dependence score. Examples of Benzos include Xanax, Valium, and Restoril. Within 1 to 4 days of discontinued use of Benzos, users may start experiencing insomnia and anxiety. After that, for the next 10 to 14 days without the drug, people might experience panic attacks, sleep disturbance, dry retching and nausea, headaches, and muscular pain and stiffness among a host of other unpleasant symptoms. Benzo withdrawal can be fatal in certain circumstances, meaning medically supervised detox is necessary.

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8. Amphetamine

Used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy, Amphetamines are stimulant drugs with a mean score of 1·67 and eighth on the list of addictive substances. Illegally produced Amphetamines, such as Meth, are sometimes mixed with caffeine, sugar, and a binding agent and are swallowed, smoked, snorted, or injected. Soon after consuming the drug, users may feel energetic, confident, happy, and have an increased sex drive. However, it also increases heart rate and causes dry mouth and teeth grinding. Withdrawal symptoms usually disappear after a month of not taking any drugs. They include nightmares, restlessness, aches and pains, exhaustion, depression, paranoia, confusion, and irritability.

9. Buprenorphine

While the Opioid epidemic rages on, researchers are trying to counter Opioid addictions with medications like Buprenorphine. It is intended to suppress the symptoms of Opioid withdrawal, decrease cravings for Opioids, and block the effects of other Opioids. However, it still offers a euphoric and sedated feeling for users, especially ones who do not have an Opioid addiction. Because of its similarities to Opioids, Buprenorphine has a mean score of 1·64.

10. Cannabis

The last substance on the list of 10 most addictive substances is one that most people are familiar with. Cannabis refers to all products derived from the Cannabis sativa and Cannabis indica plants, more commonly known as Marijuana. Medicinal Marijuana can offer pain relief for those with chronic pain, nerve pain, or multiple sclerosis. Harvard Health says it also lessens tremors in Parkinson’s disease and can treat glaucoma. It ends the list with a score of 1·51, but is it really addictive?

Thirty percent of Marijuana users show signs of a Marijuana use disorder which is associated with dependence. Withdrawal symptoms may appear including physical discomfort, decreased appetite, mood and sleep difficulties, cravings, and restlessness. People who start using Marijuana before 18 are up to 7 times more likely to develop a Marijuana use disorder.

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Get Help with the 10 Most Addictive Substances

If you or someone you know has fallen victim to any dangerous substances on this list, know that there are successful treatments available to you. Reach out to an addiction provider today to learn more about your options.

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