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What Are the Most Addictive Drugs?

There is no way around it — drugs are addictive. For decades, people have been abusing drugs for several reasons, ranging from trying to self-medicate a mental illness to trying to fit in with their peers. Drug addiction continues to be a major public health problem across the country, with more than 15 million people hooked on drugs like cocaine, meth, and opioids. But what exactly makes drugs addictive?

What Makes a Drug Addictive?

Generally speaking, drugs become addictive because of how they interact with the brain. Habit-forming drugs often interact with neurotransmitters like dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin, increasing or decreasing their function and producing satisfying effects as a result. When drugs are abused enough, they start to change the way that both the brain and the body function, which is known as addiction. Addiction is a chronic, relapsing disease of the brain that is characterized by a compulsive need to use drugs or other addictive substances. The physical structure and function of the brain becomes altered, so stopping use once addiction has developed can be extremely challenging without the help of professionals. 

The factors that tend to make a drug addictive include:

  • The potency of the drug
  • How the drug is consumed
  • How quickly the drug begins to take effect 
  • What effects the drug produces 
  • What ingredients are in the drug

Some of the most addictive drugs in both the world and the United States include cocaine, heroin, and methamphetamine.


Heroin is an opiate substance that is derived straight from morphine. Morphine, which is still used today as an analgesic in medical settings, comes from the poppy plant. Because heroin is made from something directly resourced from this specific plant, it means that it is one of the most potent opioids in the world. 

People who abuse heroin experience effects such as detachment from surroundings, drowsiness, extreme relaxation, slowed breathing, and physical and emotional pain relief. Heroin is a depressant substance, which is why when it is abused, it slows down the overall function of the mind and body. The appeal of heroin for those who abuse it are these depressant effects, but that is not only what makes them so addictive. 

Heroin, depending on the type, needs to either be smoked or injected. When a substance as potent as heroin is injected right into the bloodstream, it is immediately sent on a journey throughout the entire body. When it is smoked, heroin makes its way into the bloodstream rapidly and starts moving about in the same manner. The more than heroin is abused, the more that all parts of the body crave it in order to function. 


Cocaine is a street stimulant that comes in a white powder form and is typically snorted. Some cocaine users inject cocaine right into their veins, which, like heroin, is an easy way to get hooked on a drug fast. But, snorting cocaine does the trick nearly just the same, as it hits the brain immediately and begins producing effects. 

The potency of cocaine paired with its route of consumption make it one of the most addictive drugs in the world. People who abuse cocaine enjoy the stimulant effects it produces, including a rush of euphoria, extreme excitement, and endless amounts of energy. When the high cocaine produces wears off, though, users can quickly slip into a state of depression, as their brains and bodies work to try to function without cocaine. Coming down from a cocaine high is notorious for being extremely upsetting, so much so that users will use back-to-back to prevent their high from wearing off. As this cycle of cocaine abuse continues, ending use gets more and more difficult to do. 


Methamphetamine, or “meth”, might just be the most addictive substance on the black market. Unlike other street drugs, meth is man-made and contains chemicals and substances that can be easily found in home improvement stores and pharmacies. Containing substances like acetone, paint thinner, lithium, phosphorus, and ammonia, meth begins to deteriorate one’s insides and outsides almost immediately. But what it also does is trigger areas of the brain that start to change and end up encouraging continued meth abuse. It is a drug that has a pseudoephedrine base, so it produces stimulant effects like those produced by cocaine or crack. It is injected just like heroin and cocaine can be, making it a drug that gets metabolized in the body incredibly quickly and starts taking effect. 

People who abuse meth tend to find themselves feeling like they are on a roller coaster ride that they cannot get off of. When they are high, they feel like they are on top of the world. They experience a grandiose sense of self and limitless energy until they start to crash. At that point, they quickly develop pervasive sadness, hopelessness, and sometimes suicidal tendencies. The only answer to getting rid of these feelings and fast is to use again.  

Withdrawal Symptoms and Addictive Drugs 

Even when someone who is addicted to heroin, cocaine, or meth wants to stop using, they will face one last battle before getting clean. That battle is detox. 

There is no way to avoid withdrawal symptoms, which are symptoms that develop when the abuse of highly addictive drugs stops suddenly. People who go into withdrawal from cocaine, heroin, and meth experience symptoms like vomiting, cravings, sweats and chills, fever, and even psychosis. Drug withdrawal is not easy, especially withdrawal from these substances. That is one of the main reasons why people continue to abuse cocaine, meth, and heroin in the amounts that they do — because if they don’t, they may feel unspeakable pain. The problems do not stop when the use stops, rather it is quite the opposite. 

Do You Need Help? Call Us Today.

We understand that being trapped in active addiction and being fearful of what might happen when you stop can seem like you are stuck between a rock and a hard place. The truth is, you are. At Riviera Recovery, we can help guide and support you out of that spot so that you can stop your deadly substance abuse and begin living a happy, healthy life.

Do not wait. Call right now for the treatment you deserve.