The Most Addictive Substances in the World
It is possible for a person to develop an addiction to just about anything, but certain substances and drugs are far more addictive than others. How is the addictive potential of a drug measured? It is based on numerous factors, including the harm it causes, its street value, the extent to which it activates the brain’s dopamine system, the withdrawal symptoms it causes, and how easily a person can get hooked on it. Of course, there are a plethora of factors that are involved in measuring the addictiveness of a drug.
We compiled a list of the most addictive substances in the world, according to a panel of experts:
- Heroin: This drug received a score of 3 out of a maximum score of 3, making it the most addictive drug in the world. Heroin is an opiate that causes the dopamine levels in the brain’s reward system to increase by as much as 200%. Moreover, heroin is incredibly dangerous since a deadly dose is only five times greater than what is necessary to get high. Heroin not only harms its users, but society as well, and is estimated to be a $68 billion worldwide industry.
- Cocaine: Cocaine interferes with the brain’s use of dopamine and, essentially, prevents a person’s neurons from turning the dopamine signal off, leading to abnormal activation of the brain’s reward pathways. Experiments conducted on animals revealed that cocaine could raise one’s dopamine levels by more than three times the normal level. Additionally, it is estimated that, in 2009, the cocaine market was worth about $75 billion and somewhere between 14 million and 20 million individuals use it worldwide.
- Nicotine: When a smoker lights up, nicotine, which is the main addictive ingredient of tobacco, is quickly absorbed by the lungs and sent to the brain. Over two-thirds of Americans who tried smoking reportedly became dependent during their life. In fact, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), it is estimated that there were a billion smokers in 2002 and that tobacco will kill more than 8 million a year by 2030.
- Barbiturates: Also known as blue bullets, barbs, and pink ladies, this is a large class of drugs that were first used to treat anxiety disorders and as a sleep aid. Barbiturates interfere with the chemical signals in the brain, shutting off different regions of it. When taken at a low dose, they can cause a euphoric feeling. However, at a higher dose, they can suppress breathing and lead to death. Barbiturate dependency used to be incredibly common due to the ease with which they were available. Nowadays, other drugs have replaced them, decreasing their accessibility.
- Alcohol: Even though alcohol is legal, it scores nearly 2 out of a maximum of 3 due to the many effects it has on the brain. In laboratory experiments on animals, it was revealed that alcohol increased dopamine levels in the brain’s reward system by up to 360%, depending on how much the animals drank.
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