The Three Most Addictive Drugs
Setting aside the legality or illegality of drugs in our society, researchers from Division of Brain Sciences at Imperial College, London, decided to ask a panel of experts to rank those drugs most likely to cause the user to become addicted.
These are their top three.
Heroin: Fear over skyrocketing heroin use and addiction is well-founded. This drug is an addiction triple play – causing dopamine levels in the brain to increase by up to 200%, selling at a cheap street value, and it causing brutal withdrawal symptoms. More than 8,200 people died of a heroin overdose in 2013. Its use has more than doubled in adults aged 18 to 24 in the last decade.
Alcohol: This can be insidious in terms of addiction. Despite its general acceptance in society, alcohol can increase dopamine levels in the brain by 40-360%. Excessive alcohol use contributes to 88,000 deaths annually in the U.S., and almost 23% of those who use alcohol will become dependent at some point in their lives. Several experts have ranked alcohol as the most damaging drug in society, based on its harm to both users and others.
Cocaine: Powdered cocaine, along with its cousin, crack, work by directly interfering with the brain’s dopamine pathways, essentially making it impossible for the brain to turn dopamine signals off. This results in an “abnormal activation of the brain’s reward pathways.” About 21% of people who try cocaine will end up addicted at some time in their life. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported a 12% increase in cocaine overdose deaths from 2012 to 2013.