For those struggling with substance abuse, it may seem as if there is no way out of the addiction. Some of the most addictive substances leave a person’s life surrounded by the mayhem that takes away what used to make them who they were and potentially take their life.

Drug use is a pervasive issue in American society. Drug abuse data from the National Center for Drug Abuse Statistics (NCDAS) shows that over 50% of Americans aged 12 and older use illicit drugs at some point.

While trying a drug just once can seem like harmless fun, coming into contact with one of the most addictive substances can start a chain of events leading to substance use disorder, or SUD. This is a serious mental condition that can destroy your personal, relationship and professional accomplishments.

Consequently, avoiding the most addictive substances and seeking treatment if addicted is key to maintaining control over your life. Read on if you’re wondering, “What is the most addictive substance?” and learn why it’s so addictive and what can help you escape its harmful grasp.

1. Amphetamines

Also known as speed, amphetamines stimulate the central nervous system (CNS), giving users a burst of energy or excitability. They cause the release of a chemical called catecholamine, particularly dopamine. The effects of amphetamines are strong. They produce pleasure sensations in the brain’s “reward pathway”, which contributes to the addictive quality of amphetamines. Tolerance builds rapidly, requiring addicts to constantly increase their dosage, which brings on psychotic episodes. Commonly used amphetamines include Adderall, Ritalin, and other ADD and ADHD medications.

2. Nicotine

Nicotine, most often used in tobacco products like cigarettes, behaves like most addictive drugs by stimulating dopamine release in the brain. The drug quickly changes the brain’s ability to release dopamine naturally, so you may develop dependency within days of use, even if you only smoke occasionally. Unsurprisingly, over 61 million people use nicotine products monthly, and over 23 million Americans have nicotine dependence. Moreover, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nicotine is responsible for 20% of total deaths in the country, with smoking being the leading cause of preventable deaths.

3. Benzodiazepines

Benzodiazepines such as Valium and Xanax are typically prescribed to treat anxiety, insomnia, alcohol withdrawal, and other conditions. Though they work well for their intended uses, benzos, as they are commonly called, are highly addictive. In fact, the National Institute on Drug Abuse determined that benzodiazepines have a short half-life, causing abusers to develop a quick and dangerous tolerance. This tolerance build up can happen in as little as six weeks, potentially leading to an addiction in almost no time.

4. Methadone

Methadone is a synthetic opiate that blocks the effects of heroin and other prescription drugs containing opiates. It is highly powerful and is commonly prescribed to treat heroin addiction. The problem with methadone, however, is that it is considered more addictive than heroin, and is even harder to detox from.

5. Alcohol

When it comes to alcohol, many people do not necessarily view it in the same light as other drugs because it is legal and more socially accepted. However, alcohol can be a huge issue because it acts as a central nervous system depressant. This means that it relaxes, reduces anxiety, and even loosens inhibitions, as well as hampering the user’s ability to make proper judgments and perform motor movements. When you consume alcohol, the brain releases dopamine and endorphins, which produce feelings of satisfaction and eliminate feelings of pain. Over time, your body will need more and more alcohol in order to satisfy the brain in this same way, which leads to an addiction.

6. Cocaine

Cocaine is a stimulant drug. It causes dangerous physical effects such as rapid heart rate and increased blood pressure. It’s extremely addictive due to its short half-life and method of action. While high, cocaine keeps a steady stream of dopamine in the brain. When withdrawal sets in though, the brain starts to crave the lost dopamine the drug once provided, making it extremely hard to recover from.

7. Crack

Crack is a lower key version of cocaine. It is made from a mixture of baking soda and powder cocaine. The key difference between crack and cocaine is that crack is smoked. This method of ingestion allows the drug to seep into lung tissues, producing completely different results than seen in cocaine usage. Smoking crack causes the high to be much faster and more intense than the high traditionally felt from powder cocaine. Crack’s high is extremely short, causing the user to crave a large amount of the drug to continue the high feeling.

8. Marijuana

Marijuana, or weed, contains THC, a chemical that causes the brain to release high levels of the pleasure hormone dopamine. Weed is also a depressant that slows down your heart rate and brain activity and relaxes your muscles. As a result, you may feel high and even doze off after THC enters your body. Depending on how you consume weed , the effect may last for hours. While prescription marijuana is useful for managing various physical and mental conditions, the drug also has addictive properties. The CDC estimates users have a 10% chance of developing marijuana use disorder. Addiction to weed can affect your health, relationships and professional life.

9. Heroin

Heroin is largely considered the most addictive drug in the world. In fact, studies have shown that just one dose of heroin can put a person on the fast track to addiction. It’s estimated that nearly 25% of all people who try heroin at least one time will become addicted. Heroin causes euphoria, eases pain, and numbs the brain and body by acting on an area of nerve cells within the central part of the brain known as the nucleus accumbens. This makes it one of the most popular drugs to abuse.

10. MDMA

MDMA, also known as ecstasy or Molly, is a synthetic, psychoactive drug that affects neurotransmitter systems in the brain. Studies have shown that MDMA damages serotonin-containing neurons, and sometimes the damage is long-lasting.

111. OxyContin

OxyContin, the brand name for oxycodone, is a potent synthetic opiate. Similar to heroin, OxyContin produces a euphoric high that is caused by stimulation of the brain’s reward center. OxyContin elevates levels of dopamine, the pleasure chemical of the brain, yet in order to keep these feel-good chemicals elevated in the brain, more and more of the drug is required.

Overcome Dependence on the Most Addictive Substances

Substance use and abuse is a complex condition that takes time to understand and resolve. It’s easy to become reliant on the most addictive substances but difficult to get out of that cycle. However, you can get help and achieve long-term recovery from addictive drugs.

Sunlight Recovery provides individualized treatment that addresses your unique needs during recovery. We offer detox, inpatient and outpatient treatment to help you learn how to live a life free of substance abuse. Our wide range of programs can help you resolve the effect of the most addictive substances on your mental health and personal relationships.

If you or a loved one is suffering from an addiction, contact our compassionate team of addiction specialists for professional guidance toward recovery.

Are You in Need of Substance Abuse Treatment?

Do not allow your addiction to define you any longer. At Sunlight Recovery, we will show you how to obtain a fresh start for your life and guide you along your journey to recovery. If you or a loved one are suffering with an addiction, choose life today and contact us at 844-426-0790. Our compassionate team of counselors are standing by 24/7 to take your call.