How the Most Addictive Drugs Destroy the Body

According to the American Society of Addiction Medicine, the definition of addiction is a chronic disease that has cycles of relapse and remission. If it is not treated, it can lead to severe disability to function and premature death. It affects the reward, memory and motivation parts of the brain. When these circuits dysfunction through addictive substances, there may be biological, social, spiritual and psychological manifestations in the person.

Researchers have debated for years about which substances are the most addictive. The compulsive seeking of the required substance, a growing tolerance to the substance so larger quantities are needed for the same initial effect and withdrawal symptoms when the substance is not used are the main guidelines. The National Institute on Drug Abuse states that about 8.6 percent of Americans are addicted to drugs or alcohol.

Some of the aspects researchers use when rating a drug are:

  • How much the drug activates the body’s dopamine system
  • The extent of withdrawal symptoms
  • How pleasurable people find the drug
  • How easy it is to become hooked
  • The value of the drug on the street
  • How much harm to the body and mind the drug causes

Here are the five most addictive substances on Earth according to David Nutt and his team of researchers who produced a conclusive list of the most these substances. They wreak havoc on a person’s life and have qualities that make them especially difficult to stop taking.


Heroin and related opiates are considered the number one problem narcotic on the planet. It is a potent opiate that ranks 2.5 out of three on the Nutt’s addiction scale. An individual can become addicted very quickly with one out of four people who try it for the first time becoming addicted. It is also dangerous because a lethal dose is only five times more than an initial dose. In addition, the risk of death from a relapse is very high. Heroin is only one of several opiates. Readers wanting to know more can learn about opiates from Luminance Recovery or by visiting the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.


Alcohol is considered number two and it includes beer, wine and liquor. The negative effect it can have on the body and mind may be irreversible It has a huge effect, up to 360 percent, on increasing the dopamine in the brain. Alcohol is a legal substance that is responsible for more than three million deaths every year.


Number three is a billion dollar industry. About 14 – 29 million people all over the world use cocaine. It has a devastating effect on the brain’s level of dopamine and prevents the neurons from turning off the pleasurable sensation. The brain responds with an abnormal activation of reward pathways. About 21 percent of people who try cocaine even once will become addicted at some point during their lifetime.


Barbiturates may be prescription drugs used to treat anxiety and to induce sleep. They are sold on the street as blue bullets, pink ladies, nembies, and gorillas. They may produce euphoria at low doses but at high doses, they can suppress breathing to the point of death. People may become dependent on barbiturates because regular use, even by prescription from a doctor, may result in the necessity to take larger and larger doses to get the same results.


Nicotine is a legal drug that is enjoyed by one billion people around the world. Two-thirds of Americans have been hooked on nicotine at some point in their life and while it’s possible to quit smoking, it’s much harder than people think. Nicotine is quickly absorbed by the lungs and carried to the brain where it creates a temporary pleasing experience. Once hooked on tobacco, it may take more and more use to achieve the same pleasing feeling. This is why some people smoke up to three packages of cigarettes every day. Cigarette smoking alone causes about a half million deaths every year. Other uses are pipe tobacco, chewing tobacco, loose tobacco for hand-rolled cigarettes and cigars.

People get addicted to drugs and other substances because they activate the release of dopamine by the brain. This gives a very pleasant sensation for a short time, which may accentuate the ordinary feeling once the drug has worn off. Rather than face an ordinary world, people turn to substance abuse as an escape. Fortunately, there are ways a person can be cured of substance use disorder and take back control of their life.