Shoreline Sober Living, San Diego, CA
What the top 10 most addictive subtances?

We as humans can become addicted to pretty much anything from coffee and chocolate to shopping and spending, to much more harmful substances such as cocaine and heroin. There is a range of toxic drugs that can cause various addictive levels within the individual; while some can get you hooked on the first dose, others can take a couple of hits before any addiction begins to take place.

Understanding what the most addictive substances are and how they affect the body and mental state can help you know whether you or a loved one is at high risk of becoming an addict. Whether that be pharmaceutical drugs or street drugs, drug use is usually extraordinarily potent and problematic.

How we understand addictive substances

Substance dependency is split into three determining factors when deciding which substances are the most addictive. The first factor is:

  • The intensity of pleasure from the drug – If a drug is considered highly pleasurable, it will quickly become the commonly abused drug because of the initial euphoria effect.
  • Psychological dependency from the drug – This factor is characterized by how frequently an individual abuses the drug.
  • Physical dependency from the drug – Physical dependence is at its highest when cravings, withdrawal, and tolerance are quickly increasing.

Below is a list of how each is scored based on the three determining factors mentioned above; the first most addictive substance is:


Heroin is an incredibly addictive substance with a strong reputation among abusers and individuals who have never tried drugs. Heroin is an opiate drug that is created from morphine; this potent, addictive drug can be taken in many ways, including:

    • Injected
    • Snorted
  • Smoked

Heroin’s ability to rapidly penetrate the brain instantly results in an intense surge of euphoria or, as addicts refer to as “the rush.” Heroin activates the brain’s reward system, which essentially tricks the brain into halting the production of the rewarding feeling on its own.

As time goes on, the euphoric feel becomes weaker, which results in the addict taking a higher and more common hit of the drug. Cravings and withdrawal symptoms become incredibly intense; if the addict is not seen by a medical professional or soothes the cravings by abusing the addictive substance, the body has the potential to go into shock, which can result in multiple organ failures and the possibility of death.

Crack Cocaine

Second, on the list is crack cocaine, the purest and most potent form of all variations of cocaine. Crack cocaine is chemically similar to standard street cocaine. Much like heroin, crack cocaine targets the reward system in the body’s central nervous system and causes an excessive amount of dopamine to be released by the neurotransmitters within the brain’s reward circuit.

The drug is often mixed with other substances such as flour, starch, and even other potent medicines such as opioids and amphetamines.

Tobacco or Nicotine

Coming in as number three is Nicotine, often seen in tobacco products such as cigarettes. This drug acts in the same way as; however heroin and crack cocaine by mimicking the acetylcholine receptors in the brain while reducing the number of receptors the brain produces.

Regular smokers will reduce the sensitivities of the brain receptors, which will result in the individual smoking more nicotine to maintain a normal brain function.


Methadone has been listed as fourth in the top 10 most addictive substances.

Ironically, this specific drug was initially intended to help heroin addicts control their cravings; however, it quickly became a substitute to heroin and would be abused. For this specific reason, individuals placed on this addictive drug will be heavily monitored by a medical professional to reduce the risk of addiction significantly.

Withdrawal can often be an arduous and painful process to go through, this can include but is not limited to:

  • Severe abdominal cramps
  • Muscle tremors
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Severe anxiety


Barbiturates are depressants that were once upon a time widely prescribed to treat mental health disorders such as anxiety and epilepsy. Barbiturates are often referred to as the “downer” drug as they are used to counteract the effects of stimulant drugs such as crack cocaine. Individuals will cause a moderate sense of euphoria along with:

  • Anxiety relief
  • Sleepiness
  • Lack of inhibition

On the other hand, withdrawal symptoms are not as relaxing; you can begin seeing severe life-threatening symptoms as soon as the second day, including seizures, insomnia, and psychosis. If withdrawal symptoms are not treated by a medical professional, Individuals can experience:

  • Circulatory failure
  • Hypothermia
  • Death


While alcohol is legal within the United States, this does not reduce the likelihood of the substance being significantly addictive.

Alcohol targets two main chemicals within the central nervous system that ultimately trigger addiction.


Benzodiazepines such as Klonopin, Valium, and Xanax increase the effectiveness of GABA, which is the brain nerve-calming agent; this drug is commonly given to patients who suffer from anxiety or seizures.

Detox from these drugs can be a tedious and painful process for an individual to go through and should never be attempted without the assistance of a medical professional due to the severe and deadly withdrawal symptoms.


Amphetamine is a drug like many others with chemicals directly attached to the central nervous system’s reward circuit the minute they enter the body. These drugs will cause intense cravings and rapid tolerance, along with several other symptoms will keep the body and mind addicted to the substance.

Amphetamine is used within the medical profession to increase energy levels, help with sleeping disorders and help relieve ADHD and ADD. Abusing this drug can create a strong addiction within days due to the unnatural amount of dopamine and endorphins being pumped around the body. This is what leads to the body and mind becoming utterly reliant on the drug to function normally.


Buprenorphine is a prescription based drug that has been used to treat the current opioid crisis in America. The original purpose was to be used as a pain killer but has been adapted to treat individuals who have severe addicts to severe drugs such as heroin.

As buprenorphine is technically an opioid, there can be several severe side effects that the individual may go through. These will not be as severe as the side effects of opioids, however, long-term damage is still likely. Symptoms can include:

    • Irregular breathing
    • Sleepiness
    • Confusion
    • Blue or pale looking skin
  • Severe drowsiness


The last and most minor addictive substance of the 10 is cannabis, more commonly known as Marijuana. This specific drug can help individuals who suffer from severe physical pain, multiple sclerosis, and nerve pain.

Cannabis is an addictive drug; however, the symptoms individuals show when high and when on a comedown are nowhere near as severe as crack cocaine or heroin. Withdrawal symptoms can include but are not limited to:

    • Decreased appetite
    • Sleep difficulties
    • Restlessness
    • Cravings
  • Physical and mental discomfort

Get help by contacting Shoreline Sober Living today

The majority of drugs mentioned produce the chemical dopamine that creates a pleasurable euphoria by attaching themselves to the brain’s receptors. This leads to the body and brain is unable to function in daily life without a certain level of dopamine levels; unfortunately, the human body can not naturally create the same amount that drugs do. This quickly leads to withdrawal symptoms which will naturally encourage the individual to begin abusing more frequently.

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If you or a loved one has become dependant on one of the drugs we have mentioned, speak to a medical professional today and begin your road to recover at Shoreline Sober Living.