When considering drug abuse, many wonder what the most addictive drugs are and what makes them so addictive. It’s not that anyone chooses drug addiction; what happens is often an encounter with a highly addictive substance. What makes these drugs so addictive is the way in which they release “feel good chemicals” in the brain and subsequently hijack the brain into believing it needs these drugs to survive.
Drugs are classified according to schedule, that is, whether or not they have a high potential for abuse and if they have any medical use. Drugs are ranked from Schedule V, with the lowest potential for abuse, all the way up to Schedule I, with highly addictive properties and no medical use. By taking a look at the classification of the highest schedule drugs (I and II), it is easy to determine which ones fall under the title “most addictive drugs.”
Schedule I addictive drugs
“Schedule I drugs, substances, or chemicals are defined as drugs with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse,” according to the DEA. Schedule I drugs include heroin, LSD, marijuana and ecstasy.
Heroin is manufactured from morphine, a natural chemical taken from the poppy plant. Even though it is considered an opioid, heroin is never used (and has never been approved for use) as a prescription medication. Heroin is known as a street drug and is often mixed with other substances, making it a highly dangerous, highly addictive substance. Heroin is characterized by the euphoric feeling users experience, in addition to a number of unpleasant, short- and long-term side effects.
A psychedelic drug, LSD is known for the way it changes mood and perception; under heavy influence, it may even cause hallucinations and distortions of reality. It is a synthetic chemical created from a fungus known as ergot. LSD is particularly dangerous in that the way it distorts reality can lead to panic and resulting risky behavior.
The dried flowers of the plant Cannabis sativa are used in a variety of ways to experience the effects of the plant’s active ingredient THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol). The effects of marijuana take place almost immediately and can lead to a relaxed state of mind, increased appetite and greater sensory perception. However, individuals may feel reverse effects, including heightened panic, anxiety and even the loss of a sense of one’s self. Even though it is widely used recreationally, 30% of people who use marijuana develop marijuana use disorder, which can lead to addiction.
According to the DEA, ecstasy/MDMA “acts as both a stimulant and psychedelic, producing an energizing effect, distortions in time and perception, and enhanced enjoyment of tactile experiences.” MDMA is a chemical made in labs and is often sold on the streets in an impure form, meaning ecstasy acquired from a dealer is often mixed with another drug like meth, cocaine or ketamine. Not only is this dangerous, it frequently leads to fatal overdoses.
Schedule II addictive drugs
The DEA classifies “Schedule II drugs, substances, or chemicals . . . as drugs with a high potential for abuse, with use potentially leading to severe psychological or physical dependence. These drugs are also considered dangerous.” These include cocaine, fentanyl and methamphetamine.
Made from the South American coca plant, cocaine has a medical use in local anesthesia, but is always considered illegal when sold on the streets. Cocaine increases dopamine production in the brain, creating reactions like hypersensitivity to light, sound and touch; increased energy and alertness; and even paranoia and irritability. Long-term use can lead to increased risk of infections, including pneumonia, HIV and hepatitis C.
Another synthetic opioid drug, fentanyl is 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine, making it increasingly more dangerous to consume. “Like morphine, it is a medicine that is typically used to treat patients with severe pain, especially after surgery. It is also sometimes used to treat patients with chronic pain who are physically tolerant to other opioids,” according to the NIDA. It takes very little fentanyl to create a high, and many dealers mix it with a deadly combination of heroin, cocaine or meth.
Overcoming an addiction to a well-known, highly addictive substance can be challenging and uncomfortable. Because of the way in which these drugs hijack and rewire the brain’s natural functions, it can take time, effort and dedication to struggle through the recovery process. However, with the right treatment plan, medically-assisted detox and a treatment facility designed to treat even the most addictive drugs, you can not only recover, but maintain recovery longterm.
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The information on this website is for general information purposes only. Nothing on this site should be taken as medical advice for any individual case or situation. This information is not intended to create, and receipt or viewing does not constitute, a doctor-patient relationship.