The World’s Ten Most Addictive Drugs

There are some substances in this world that would be better left totally alone. That’s because they are so addictive for some people that just a few uses will entrap them. Sometimes, an addicted person will state that it was just one experience with a drug like meth, heroin or OxyContin and they knew they were lost.

A researcher named David Nutt in England decided to rate the most addictive substances in the world. He established his criteria for analysis, deciding that addictiveness could be established by rating pleasure, psychological dependence and physical dependence. He then rated many of the illicit and legal drugs on the market to come up with his final list.

  • Heroin: This drug appears at the top of this list because a user so rapidly develops a tolerance for this drug. As the tolerance develops, a user must take more and more of the drug to get any effect from it. After a period of use, a person will be using an amount that would have killed him in his early days. Of course, building up a tolerance means that a person is going to go through a severe period of readjustment when he comes off the drug. This means muscle and bone pain, vomiting, diarrhea and other symptoms. The readjustment is psychological as well. Because heroin creates euphoria, one’s problems seem so far away. One only needs more heroin to feel mellow. The ability to face and solve life’s problems must be relearned.
Four drugs, alcohol, nicotine, heroin and methamphetamine.
  • Crack cocaine and powder cocaine: Nutt grouped these two forms of cocaine together but a later study put crack cocaine higher on the list. These two stimulants have derailed many lives at both ends of the economic spectrum. As powder cocaine is an expensive high, professionals of all types have fallen prey to its ability to create an artificial state of excitement and confidence. Crack cocaine is relatively cheap so less affluent individuals tend to encounter this drug. Those trying to withdraw from either drug face intense cravings for more cocaine, which makes it challenging to get sober after addiction.
  • Nicotine: In 2012, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated that 50 million Americans were addicted to nicotine. Of course, nicotine addiction exists in every country of the world. While Narconon does not address nicotine addiction, it is definitely a drug that harms a person’s well being and health.
  • Methadone: Nutt distinguished “street methadone” (methadone abused without a prescription) from methadone used medically but the truth is that both forms are highly addictive. The effects of methadone are similar to those of heroin but methadone is a long-lasting drug. This means that it can take weeks to fully withdraw from this drug, with the individual suffering from pain, sickness and insomnia the whole time. Narconon has not found recovery from opiate addiction to require the administration of more drugs like methadone. Our program uses nutritional support and plenty of one-on-one work to help a person experience a tolerable withdrawal. A thorough sauna-based detoxification step follows withdrawal to flush out the toxins left behind after drug use. These two actions help brighten a person’s outlook and make their thinking clearer, a great start to a sober future.
  • Methamphetamine: In Montana, high rates of methamphetamine abuse led the state to develop a series of public service announcements encouraging people to avoid using methamphetamine even one time. That’s because for many people, once is all it takes to become addicted. It’s an extremely strong stimulant, which means it creates false energy, confidence and excitement but also, after a period of use, exhaustion, paranoia and mental instability.
  • Barbiturates: Nutt placed these sleeping pills (think Seconal and Nembutal) in sixth place but more recent research places them lower on the list. Because these drugs are so addictive, they are used more rarely than they used to be.
  • Alcohol: This drug finds different spots on scales created by various researchers. Alcohol normally takes a considerable period of use to addict a person. But because it is a legal drug, many more people are addicted to it than any other intoxicant. Alcohol has the added disadvantage of being dangerous to withdraw from after lengthy and heavy use. A medically supervised withdrawal is needed for some people because of the potentially fatal effects of delirium tremens (DTs).
  • Benzodiazepines: This class of anti-anxiety drugs includes Valium, Xanax and Klonopin. Individuals given these drugs by a doctor may not be warned about their addictive potential. And not every doctor utilizes these drugs for short-term treatment, as they are supposed to be used meaning that their patients can become dependent on these drugs without ever abusing them. When abused, these drugs are often mixed with opiates like hydrocodone or oxycodone because the combination results in an effect similar to that of heroin. This type of drug can be dangerous to withdraw from because severe mental disturbances may occur. A medically supervised detoxification is sometimes needed.
  • Medical amphetamines: In this class, you will find pure amphetamine that has been prescribed for weight loss (although this practice has largely been abandoned) and formulations of mixed amphetamines and similar drugs used to treat narcolepsy and problems focusing. While diagnoses like ADHD have been disputed by many, doctors still prescribe Adderall (a mix of dextroamphetamine and amphetamine), Ritalin (methylphenidate) and similar drugs when a child or adult is easily distracted. These stimulants keep a person awake for hours, meaning that a student in high school or college may be drawn to these drugs to cram for tests or stay up all night to finish an assignment. Many college students have reported that they learned the symptoms of ADHD then went to a doctor to be prescribed the drugs. Thus they have them legally but are actually abusing the drugs. Because they are addictive, some people find that they need drug rehab before they can adjust to a drug-free life.
  • Buprenorphine: The primary use of buprenorphine is the treatment of opiate addiction. This is unfortunate because the symptoms of buprenorphine withdrawal can last much longer than those of heroin or painkillers. While a person withdrawing from heroin may start to feel better after a week, symptoms of buprenorphine withdrawal may not even peak for 10 days. A person may not start feeling good again for as long as 90 days.

It’s sad that two of the drugs on this list are used in the treatment of addiction to heroin or painkillers. For fifty years, the Narconon program has been helping people reclaim their sobriety and enjoyment of living without the use of any drugs. This means that it takes longer than the 28 days of many drug rehab programs but it is time well spent.

Find out how Narconon Ojai helps each person fully detoxify from past drug or alcohol abuse and how each person can recover his self-respect and sober living skills as well. A sober, enjoyable life can be yours once again after just a few months at Narconon Ojai.


Karen Hadley

For more than a decade, Karen has been researching and writing about drug trafficking, drug abuse, addiction and recovery. She has also studied and written about policy issues related to drug treatment.