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 they can cause, its street value, how much it is able to activate the brain’s dopamine system, the withdrawal symptoms it causes, and how quickly 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 can cause dopamine levels in the brain to increase by as much as 200%. Moreover, heroin is incredibly dangerous since a deadly dose is only five times more 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 gets in the way of the brain’s use of dopamine and, essentially, prevents a person’s neurons from shutting off the dopamine signal, leading to an activation of the reward pathways in the brain. Experiments conducted on animals revealed that cocaine could raise one’s dopamine levels by over three times the normal level. Additionally, it is estimated that the cocaine market was worth about $75 billion in 2009 and somewhere between 14 million and 20 million individuals use it worldwide.
- Nicotine: When a smoker lights up, nicotine, which is the primary addictive ingredient in tobacco, is quickly absorbed by the person's 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 referred to as barbs, blue bullets, 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 taken their place, 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 experiments on animals, it was revealed that alcohol can increase dopamine levels in the brain’s reward system by up to 360%, depending on how much the animals drank.
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