Have you ever wondered what the most addictive drugs are? If so, you may be in for a surprise when you read the results of research conducted by Dr. David Nutt, professor of neuropsychopharmacology at London’s prestigious Imperial College.
As reported on Thefix.com, Dr. Nutt rated each substance on a scale from 0 to 3, with 3 being the most addictive. The analysis was based on the addictive properties of the substances themselves, and do not take into account other factors, such as availability and cultural attitudes, that affect addiction. When reading this list, it is important to consider that all addiction is harmful, no matter what the substance or behaviour in question.
- Heroin With a dependence rating of 2.89 out of 3, heroin trumped out all other substances. On a chemical level, heroin and opiates mimic naturally occurring opioids in the body, while simultaneously producing endorphins. This dulls pain and creates pleasure, so that when people use heroin, they are in fact training their brain to expect the drug. According to research conducted by the National Institute of Health, 23 percent of first time heroin users become addicts.
- Crack Cocaine In second place is crack cocaine, with a rating of 2.82. Crack cocaine is a crystallized solid form of cocaine that is typically smoked. Consumed in this this fashion, it gives a short (about 10 minutes) intense high. Although most common in the United States in the 1980s and 1990s, there is continued demand for this drug due to its highly addictive nature.
- Nicotine Tied for second place is nicotine, also at 2.82. While nicotine, typically smoked in cigarettes, does not provide the same intense high as heroin or crack, it has a similar neuropsychological effect as these two illicit substances. Nicotine mimics a neurotransmitter in the brain, creating dependence on the drug in order for the brain to operate normally.
- Methadone With a rating of 2.68, this replacement therapy for heroin addiction can itself become addictive. Though it does not have the pleasurable effects of heroin, use of it creates dependence and can be problematic.
- Crystal Meth Known by many other names, including methamphetamine, this drug rates as 2.24 on the scale. Crystal meth affects the systems regulating dopamine and norepinephrine, creating chemical dependence that is hard to kick.
- Alcohol Although legal, alcohol is actually chemically quite addictive, with a score of 2.13. Alcohol has been shown to light up reward centers of the brain; when alcohol use is stopped, heavy drinkers experience many negative feelings during withdrawal. The combination of dependence and withdrawal makes alcohol highly addictive.
- Cocaine Rated 2.13, cocaine works by affecting the dopamine reward centres of the brain. With a relatively short high and rapid tolerance, cocaine creates a high level of dependence.
- Amphetamines What are amphetamines? Rated 1.95, these are synthetic cousins of methamphetamine contained in prescription drugs such as Adderall and Dexedrine. Researchers have found that despite their widespread prescription, they are chemically similar to methamphetamine and can have similarly habit forming capacities.
- Benzodiazepines Also found in prescription drugs, benzodiazepines, rated 1.89, are given to patients as a way to manage anxiety. Unfortunately, when discontinued, anxiety often returns, as well as a bevy of withdrawal symptoms.
- GHB The designer drug GHB, often called a “club drug,” is rated as 1.71. By affecting neurotransmitters in the brain, it creates pleasurable feelings and becomes more potent when combined with alcohol. Withdrawal symptoms are also intense, creating dependence in users.