According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, roughly 22.7 million Americans (8.6%) suffer from a drug or alcohol addiction. With such a large percentage of the population suffering from addiction, it is critical to investigate which is the most addictive substance and which is the most dangerous substance and then look at the various treatment, rehabilitation, and long-term recovery options.
Substance Abuse and Addiction: The Definitions
Before discussing what some of the most addictive substances are, it is first necessary to define addiction and define substance abuse. The American Society of Addiction Medicine, in its article titled “What is the Definition of Addiction?” defines addiction as a chronic mental and physical disease involving a compulsive urge to repeatedly indulge in certain behaviors, such as using a substance or drug. The American Society of Addiction Medicine emphasizes addiction’s mental aspects, stating that the addiction process involves interaction between the brain circuits, genes, and the environment.
Scientists studying addiction have identified a process whereby the drug triggers the brain to release dopamine. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter responsible for the sensation of pleasure. With repeated use of a dopamine-triggering drug, the brain comes to associate the drug with pleasure, and this is where the addiction process begins.
Addiction is also defined symptomatically. For example, individuals are considered addicted to a particular substance when it is no longer present in their body and then exhibit withdrawal symptoms. Lastly, addiction is defined by quantity, as in repetitive use.
The National Cancer Institute defines substance abuse as the unnecessary use or misuse of a substance. Typically this will involve repeated use of a substance for purposes other than what the substance was designed for.
What Are the Eight Most Dangerous Substances on the Planet?
Research published in the medical journal, “The Lancet,” looked at 20 different chemicals to see how dangerous they were. The researchers classified the danger factors into three categories: bodily damage, dependency, and social harm. Data from the dependency category was utilized to establish the world’s top eight most dangerous drugs.
Dependence was classified into three types: intensity of pleasure, psychological dependence, and bodily dependence. The study showed that the most common form of dependency was psychological, where subjects would become dependent on a substance to produce a pleasurable or euphoric feeling.
The study identified psychological dependency by its characteristics, including recurrent substance use, fear of discontinuing, and negative consequences. The study also identified physiological dependency by its characteristics, including; increased tolerance, cravings, and withdrawal symptoms.
Heroin is a morphine-based opioid medication. In the Lancet study, heroin had the highest mean score for dependency (300) and is ranked as the most dangerous substance. After injecting, snorting, or smoking heroin, addicts experience a surge of exhilaration. Tolerance to heroin develops quickly, and users must continuously increase the amount used to have the same effect.
Heroin is definitely one of the most addictive and scariest drugs. Users are motivated to continue taking the substance by the unpleasant withdrawal symptoms. Common withdrawal symptoms include severely painful muscles and bones, diarrhea and defecation, restlessness, sudden cold flashes, and involuntary leg movements.
Cocaine came in second with a score of 239. The white powder medication is often snorted and is a stimulant derived from the coca plant’s leaves. Drug dealers frequently cut it, which means they combine it with other substances to increase the overall amount and the money made from selling it. It is also usual for traffickers to blend cocaine with other narcotics like Fentanyl, significantly raising the danger of overdose. Cocaine raises dopamine levels in the brain, and repeated usage disrupts everyday nerve cell communication.
Regularly snorting cocaine makes your brain less sensitive to dopamine, and users must use increasing amounts to get the same effect. Depression, nightmares, sleeplessness, exhaustion, and delayed thinking are common withdrawal effects.
Nicotine is a substance found in tobacco leaves that causes people to become addicted. The popular and legal drug received a dependency score of 221 and is ranked third on the Lancet list. Tobacco’s addictive characteristic is one of the reasons it is so extensively used across the world. Users are more likely to smoke cigarettes but can also get their dose of nicotine by smoking pipes or cigars.
Withdrawal symptoms begin with a strong need for tobacco, followed by irritation, difficulty sleeping, difficulty paying attention, and hunger pangs. About 34 million persons smoke cigarettes, with West Virginia, Kentucky, and Louisiana having the most smokers. Utah and California have the fewest cigarette smokers.
4. Street Methadone
Methadone is meant to assist with heroin withdrawal as it suppresses urges and cravings. However, it is frequently misused. With a mean score of 208, it had a low pleasure score on the causes for reliance but rated high in psychological and bodily dependence. It comes in tablet, oral solution, and injectable liquid forms. According to the Department of Justice, some street names are chocolate chip cookies, fizzes, Maria, Pastora, Salvia, and wafer. Withdrawal symptoms include heightened anxiety, muscular tremors, a feeling of nausea, intermittent diarrhea, defecation, and stomach cramps.
Barbiturates are depressants with a mean dependency score of 201. They cause a broad range of central nervous system depression, from moderate drowsiness to coma. They are available as pills but are misused by injecting a liquid version into the user’s body. Amobarbital, Pentobarbital, Phenobarbital, Secobarbital, and Tuinal are some of the most prevalent generic names.
Barbiturates provide modest euphoria, a lack of inhibition, anxiety alleviation, and drowsiness. Some common withdrawal symptoms include seizures, disorientation, anxiety, sleeplessness, and psychosis. Barbiturates, if not addressed, can cause hypothermia, circulatory collapse, and death.
Alcohol is the most often-used psychoactive substance in the United States, and few people realize it is the most dangerous because it is legal and readily available. Over 86% of individuals have drunk alcohol, and over 14 million adults currently suffer from alcoholism. The Lancet study gave alcohol an addictive score of 193, ranking it number six among the top ten most addictive drugs. Alcohol placed high in the enjoyment category, which makes sense given that most people drink to relax or rejoice.
Excessive drinking, on the other hand, is related to many health concerns, including high blood pressure, alcohol poisoning, stroke, memory loss, depression, and anxiety. Withdrawal from alcohol can result in delirium tremens, which can be fatal. Tremors, hallucinations, and seizures are among the other alcohol withdrawal symptoms.
Benzodiazepines (Benzos) are among the most often prescribed drugs in the United States and are used to reduce anxiety and seizures, relax muscles, and aid in inducing sleep. They are also often misused due to addictive characteristics, and Benzodiazepines like Xanax, Valium, and Restoril have a dependency score of 183.
Users may experience sleeplessness and anxiety within 1 to 4 days of discontinuing Benzos. Without the medicine, patients may have panic attacks, sleep disturbances, dry retching and nausea, headaches, and muscle soreness and stiffness for anywhere between 10 to 14 days. Benzo withdrawal can be lethal in some cases; thus, medically supervised detox is required.
Amphetamines are stimulant medicines used to treat Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy. They have a mean score of 167 and rank eighth on the list of addictive compounds. Illegally manufactured amphetamines, such as methamphetamine, are sometimes combined with caffeine, sugar, and a binding agent before being ingested, smoked, snorted, or injected.
Users may feel energetic, confident, and cheerful, and have heightened sexual desire shortly after taking the medication. Amphetamines raise the heart rate and induce dry mouth and teeth grinding. Withdrawal symptoms usually subside after a month of no drug use.
Prolonged drug use affects brain chemistry, making it hard to stop the addiction cycle without the assistance of a supportive medical team. It is not easy to stop using drugs, especially when you’ve been exposed to the most addictive substance. Many addicts have underlying issues that contribute to their addiction. It is, therefore, essential to get the correct diagnosis that will help you understand what’s causing your addiction.
Even after years of sobriety, you may fantasize about taking drugs again or feel a physical craving. With the proper treatment for substance abuse, you may overcome these urges and achieve your goal of being drug-free.
Get Professional Help for Addiction
Addiction therapy remains the most effective and safest approach to conquering addiction and achieving long-term sobriety, particularly for the world’s most dangerous substance and others.
Haven House Recovery is a secure place where you may address the underlying causes of your drug usage. Our treatment facility for substance abuse can assist you with overcoming these tough challenges as we address all the relevant topics on substance abuse.
We must remember that the first step toward rehabilitation is to seek help from established centers, like our drug rehab in Murfreesboro, TN. We will be there for you every step of the way, from withdrawal through aftercare. Our programs are specifically tailored to your needs. You do not have to fight your drug addiction alone.