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The Most Addictive Drugs

Each day in the US, people succumb to drug addiction. Since the COVID lockdowns, addictive drug use has seen a dramatic increase. According to stats by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), 59.3% of Americans aged 12 and older abused illicit drugs during 2020.

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1. Cocaine – The Most addictive Substance

Cocaine is a stimulant drug sold in white power form. It is typically sniffed for an instant energy high. The drug became popular in the ’70s disco scene as a party drug that people used to stay awake all night. Cocaine causes a mix of energy and euphoria. The ’80s saw the explosion of crack, a cheaper and faster-acting cocaine variant.

  • How many cocaine users are in the US? Cocaine abuse rates average between 22% and 23% of the population in the 10 US cities where the drug is most common.
  • Where is cocaine most common? Cocaine abuse is most common in Phoenix, Ariz., where 23.3% of the city’s 1.5 million population have used the drug. Cocaine use is most common in the middle Great Plains and Southwest regions.

When the cocaine high wears off, users typically feel a crash, accompanied by depression and irritability. The effects of hardcore cocaine abuse include arrhythmia, hypertension, constricted blood vessels and pupil dilation.

2. Heroin

Heroin is one of the most instantaneous opioids and the second deadliest behind fentanyl. It has plagued urban communities since the 1970s when it exploded as a recreational drug in the rock scene and poor, rundown neighborhoods. Today its use is most prevalent in the Midwest and parts of the Great Plains regions.

  • How many heroin users are in the US? Heroin abuse ranges from 3.1% to 3.4% of the population in cities with the highest number of users.
  • Where is heroin most common? The top two cities for heroin abuse in the US are Omaha, Neb., and Indianapolis, Ind., where 3.4% of the population abuse the drug.

Heroin is addictive because it creates a euphoric sensation in users. People who suffer physical pain, depression and anxiety take heroin to feel numbness and a sense of carefree overjoy. Its effects are so powerful that people become addicted on first use.

Heroin tolerance takes 3-7 days for the body to develop, after which the user takes higher doses to get the same effect. Hardcore symptoms include slowed breathing, slowed heart rate and sedation.

3. Alcohol

Alcohol is one of the world’s most addictive substances because of its widespread availability. Though not classified as a drug, per se, critics argue that its effects are worse than marijuana and hallucinations.

Alcohol is a depressant that slows breathing and heart rates. Intoxicated people are often rendered light-headed, uninhibited, fearless and sometimes belligerent. A person’s true nature — be it violent, adventurous or highly sexual — often comes out when under the influence.

  • How many people drink in the US? Among adults 18 and over, 85.6% have consumed alcoholic beverages according to a 2019 survey by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.
  • Where is drinking most common? Drinking is most prevalent in US cities with large concentrations of bars, nightclubs and liquor stores. The state with the highest concentration of drinkers is New Hampshire, which accounts for 4.74% of the nation’s total.

Though it’s acceptable for adults to consume 1-2 drinks per night in social settings, some people take it overboard with binge drinking, defined as 4-5 drinks or more within two hours. Binge drinking, or drinking constantly throughout the day, leads to alcoholism.

Alcohol is damaging to young, developing minds because liquor slows breathing, thus depriving the mind of oxygen. Alcohol is especially dangerous when mixed with depressant drugs. 

4. Nicotine 

Nicotine, the active chemical present in cigarettes, hooks people just as powerfully as cocaine and heroin. Arguably, nicotine is more widely available than alcohol. Anyone with enough cash to work an unmonitored cigarette machine can access a pack. Kids as young as 12 years old take up the habit.

  • How many people smoke in the US? According to 2020 stats by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 30.8% of American adults smoke cigarettes.
  • Where is smoking most common? The regions with the highest concentrations of smokers are the South and the Midwest, where smokers account for 22.7% and 22.2% of the population, respectively.

Nicotine can cause lung cancer, heart disease and diabetes. Even secondhand smoke is dangerous and lethal. Tell-tale signs of a cigarette smoker include yellow teeth and smelly clothes, hair and breath.

5. Methamphetamines

Methamphetamine, commonly known by the street names speed and crystal, is a stimulant drug that causes hyperactivity, restlessness and feelings of manic overjoy. It first became popular during the ’60s among touring rock musicians who had to play multiple shows per night.

  • How many meth users are in the US? Meth use ranges from 14% to 15% of the population in cities where abuse of the drug is most prevalent.
  • Where is meth most common? The highest concentration of meth abuse is in Phoenix, where 15.1% of the city’s population has used the drug.

On meth, people stay awake for hours on end and often skip nights of sleep. As an energy drug, its effects include insomnia and faster heartbeats.

If mixed with other drugs, meth can cause heart attacks (when combined with other stimulants) or arrhythmia (if mixed with depressants like heroin or alcohol). Hardcore users often show physical signs of meth abuse (scars, dilation, jaundice).

Fight Drug Abuse: Get Help

Get Help Today

Don't go through the process of recovery alone. There are people who can help you with the struggle you're facing. Get in touch with one today.

Make a Call

Drug abuse is rampant across the US, even in places where people least expect it. Most addictive drugs can cause heart disease, strokes, brain damage and death. People seeking drug or alcohol addiction treatment should get it from a center that offers medical detox and supervised rehab programs.

Drugs are addictive because they work on opioid receptors and trigger the brain’s reward system. This leads to intense drug cravings that only get worse as the body grows tolerant of a substance. 

In detox, nurses help patients through the withdrawal symptoms that occur after long periods of substance abuse to illegal drugs like heroin and crack cocaine, as well as prescription opioids. 

If someone you know struggles with an addictive drug, call the nearest treatment centers in your area and ask about their programs. Your call could save a life.

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