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Top 10 Most Addictive Substances In The World

VO: Rebecca Brayton WRITTEN BY: Garrett Alden
These things grab on and don’t let go. For this list, we’ll be looking at the substances that have the highest rates of addiction, at least according to the majority of reputable researchers. WatchMojo counts down the Top 10 Most Addictive Substances in the World.

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Script written by Garrett Alden

Top 10 Most Addictive Substances in the World

These things grab on and don’t let go. Welcome to and today we’ll be counting down our picks for the Top 10 Most Addictive Substances in the World.

For this list, we’ll be looking at the substances that have the highest rates of addiction, at least according to the majority of reputable researchers.

#10: GHB

A popular club drug, with a nasty reputation as the “date rape drug,” GHB, which stands for gamma hydroxybutyric acid, is a naturally occuring depressant in the body. When recreationally ingested however, it can create a positive mood in smaller doses and drowsiness in higher ones. While its effects only last a few hours, withdrawal can last several weeks, with symptoms like deliriousness, hallucinations, and insomnia. The whiplash users experience often leads them to take it multiple times a day to avoid these painful withdrawal effects.

#9: Benzodiazepines

Benzodiazepines, or benzos as they’re commonly known, affect the body’s neurotransmitters, giving users a mellowed experience. Including common brands like Xanax, Klonopin, or Valium, benzodiazepines are usually prescribed to help people who suffer from anxiety, stress, or panic attacks. Unfortunately, those who use them regularly can also quickly develop a tolerance for them, which often leads to using increased dosages and therefore, in the long term, a higher dependency on them. Withdrawal is also quite severe and can be fatal if medical help is not readily available.

#8: Amphetamines

As type of stimulant, amphetamines give their users a boost in mood and energy characteristic of this general class of narcotic, and is a favorite of people facing tight deadlines, since many varieties increase both focus and vigor. Though relatively safe when taken at the medically prescribed dosages, higher amounts can easily become addictive, as users become accustomed to their effects; needing more to achieve and preserve their high. Crashes when coming off of amphetamines are also described as being rather intense, with users experiencing severe depression in contrast to their previous euphoria, which usually prompts them to start the cycle over again.

#7: Alcohol

While it may not be quite as addictive as some other entries on our list, alcohol makes up for this by being one of the most widely used and abused substances in history, with an estimated 15 million people in the United States suffering from alcohol addiction at some level. Its effects on the body and mind are also notable, as it can multiply the amount of dopamine in the brain’s reward system by up to 360 percent. Alcohol also affects the central nervous system, which can make withdrawal excruciating and/or deadly. It may be legal, but it’s still highly dangerous when not enjoyed responsibility.

#6: Barbiturates

These depressants were once used as a common treatment for anxiety, sleep aids and to produce a calming, euphoric sensation, giving them the nickname “downers.” Yet, like several other highly addictive substances, tolerance to them can build up easily, which has led most modern doctors to use other drugs in their place. Barbiturates can also have withdrawal symptoms, such as seizures, vomiting, and an increase in anxiety, the very thing they’re meant to stave off. All in all, barbiturates’ withdrawal effects can prove quite deadly as, like alcohol, they affect the central nervous system.

#5: Crystal Methamphetamine

A variant of powder methamphetamine, this crystalline variety, also called crystal meth, offers its users a more potent reaction. Crystal meth provides powerful boosts of energy and focus to its users, but it comes at a heavy price. The drug stimulates the parts of the brain that create dopamine and norepinephrine, which can permanently damage its ability to produce these neurotransmitters on its own, enforcing the need for more crystal meth to feel any sort of pleasure. Like everything else about it, withdrawal from crystal meth can get pretty ugly.

#4: (Street) Methadone

Like Buprenorphine, methadone is an opioid commonly used to treat addiction to harder, more addictive opioids, like heroin. While not as prone to causing its users physical addiction, methadone still affects the brain; creating a psychological dependency that can be similarly difficult to kick without proper structure, and with withdrawal symptoms that can last more than a month. Though medical facilities typically regulate its use, on the street, there are no such restrictions and methadone’s popularity with those who’ve experienced it in rehab can lead to further addiction.

#3: Nicotine

Though it may be legal, nicotine is still incredibly addictive and all the more easy to relapse into, due to its availability. Found primarily in tobacco products, nicotine is among the most widely used of the substances on our list, right up there with alcohol. Nicotine affects the brain’s chemistry, including dopamine and epinephrine levels, which helps develop a dependence rather quickly. It’s also notoriously deadly due to the delivery system, with tobacco related products being responsible for the deaths of more than 6 million people a year, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

#2: Cocaine / Crack Cocaine

With nearly 1 in 5 people who try it becoming hooked, cocaine, and its more potent form, crack, is a very easy drug to become addicted to. Despite the ease with which dependence can occur, it remains a popular party drug. As with many of our prior entries, cocaine affects the pleasure centers of the brain, while hindering the natural processors of these areas, reinforcing the need for cocaine. The effects of cocaine are relatively short as well, with the harsh comedown that users experience often motivating them to use more to avoid the side effects - all of which worsens the dependence, and the likelihood of an overdose.

#1: Heroin

While the relatively newer, similar drug, fentanyl, has been in the news in recent years, our number one choice had to go to heroin. A powerful opiate and depressant, it imitates our bodies’ relief mechanism, endorphins. Heroin is so commonly habit forming that around 1 out of 4 people who try it become dependent on it and a user’s brain chemistry can change after only a few uses. Its risk of overdose is also extreme, since it’s only a few times greater than the amount needed to get high, and an overdose can easily cut an addiction short in the worst way.


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