Recent statistics show that about 2.1 million people in the country are addicted to one physically addictive substance or another. This places a huge burden on hospitals and social systems and takes a toll not only on these individuals but also on their families and society as a whole. In this article, Evolve Indy will rank the 5 most physically addictive substances.

It is important to note that addictive substances are not all equal –some are better at creating dependency than others while some cause more havoc during withdrawal.

When it comes to ranking physically addictive substances, we check the following characteristics:

  • The high it gives and the psychological dependence it creates.
  • How easily a person gets hooked when trying the substance.
  • The physical harm it causes.
  • The cravings and symptoms are experienced when the substance is withdrawn.

Here are the 5 most physically addictive substances:

  1. Heroin

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), heroin is the fastest-acting and most abused opioid in the country. Opioids are a class of drugs that include prescription painkillers such as oxycodone and morphine and illegal ones such as heroin.

Heroin works by activating the opioid receptors in the brain and blocking pain while inducing relaxation. Some users report getting a euphoric high after using the drug because it overfloods the brain’s dopamine receptors. All these combined make heroin highly addictive with up to a quarter of those who try it become addicted according to the American Society of Addiction Medicine.

What makes heroin even more dangerous is that dependence occurs quite quickly with regular use and if withdrawn, the individual is thrown into serious emotional and physical withdrawal. Most of those using heroin keep doing so to avoid these withdrawal symptoms.

What Are The 5 Most Physically Addictive Substances?
  1. Cocaine

Cocaine is a stimulant drug derived from the coca plant and sold in a highly addictive powder form. It is classified as a Schedule II controlled substance by the DEA.

Cocaine works by overstimulating the brain to produce too much dopamine, creating an intense high that produces a short-lived sense of euphoria. This is accompanied by increased excitement and alertness. Over time, constant cocaine use rewires the brain pathways, and the person using needs to keep taking higher amounts of the drug to achieve the same high.

Since the high doesn’t last that long, cocaine is normally abused in a bingeing pattern with the individual taking constant hits to try and maintain their high. The crash that comes afterward can be intense causing severe cravings, anxiety, and depression.

  1. Alcohol

Surprised to see alcohol on this list? Don’t be.

Alcohol is the most regularly used addictive substance in the country and is legal for those who’ve attained the drinking age. While it’s a common feature in social situations and activities, it doesn’t mean that alcohol doesn’t have a darker side.

Like most other addictive substances, alcohol works by increasing the brain’s dopamine levels. However, it’s also a central nervous system (CNS) depressant. Drinking alcohol slows down the working of the CNS resulting in a low heart rate and blood pressure. This in turn promotes sedation and impairs an individual’s motor and coordination skills. Additionally, alcohol lowers inhibitions, making it more likely for individuals to engage in risky behavior while drunk.

As alcohol leaves the system, it results in unpleasant symptoms (known as a hangover) including nausea and vomiting, sweating, irregular heart rate, insomnia, and depression, among others. Some people prefer to have another drink to minimize these symptoms.

  1. Nicotine

Nicotine is mostly found in tobacco products and some sources list nicotine addiction as the most common addiction in the country.

Commonly found in cigarettes, nicotine is a highly addictive substance that is readily absorbed through the mucosal lining of the nose, mouth, and lungs. It can even be absorbed through the skin. It takes effect within 10 seconds and leads to elevated mood and pleasant sensations.

Nicotine dependence can build up quickly, especially if an individual smokes regularly. What’s even worse is that nicotine addiction is difficult to break without help. When an individual doesn’t get their nicotine hit, they may end up with unpleasant symptoms including irritability, trouble concentrating, changes in appetite, intense cravings for the drug as well as depression and anxiety.

  1. Methamphetamines

According to NIDA, about 2 million people aged 12 years and above used meth in 2019 with about half of them becoming addicted.

Meth is made in laboratories and is available in either crystal or powder form. This is a powerful stimulant that increases focus, pleasure, and excitability in those who take it. It also heightens awareness, decreases the need for sleep, and suppresses the appetite.

It’s easy to become dependent on meth, requiring increasing amounts of the drug to achieve the same high and effect. With time, an individual becomes addicted to it and continued use can severely damage parts of the brain associated with memory, learning, and emotional regulation.

Failure to take the drug results in severe withdrawal symptoms characterized by suicidal ideation, intense drug cravings, and severe depression. These symptoms can be so serious that individuals hooked on meth often resort to compulsive habits to feed their addiction.

Start Your Addiction Recovery Journey

You don’t have to wait until you’ve hit rock bottom before asking for help to overcome addiction. You just have to admit you have a problem, then get in touch with an addiction treatment center such as Evolve Indy. Based in Indiana, we have the necessary tools and staff to help our clients beat addiction in a conducive environment.

We specialize in providing individualized treatment and a variety of treatment programs including Intensive Outpatient, Partial Hospitalization, and Outpatient treatment. We also encourage our clients and their families to participate in our Family Therapy Program to rebuild and heal their relationships after being devastated by addiction.

Our lines are open 24/7 and we’ll be glad to help you whether you’re looking for more information on addiction or are ready to enroll in one of our addiction treatment programs. 


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