most addictive drugs

The Worst of the Worst: Which of the Most Addictive Drugs Are the Worst for Your Health?

Cocaine, meth, and heroin, oh my! If you ask someone what the most addictive drugs are, they’ll probably site those three (not necessarily in that order).

And we agree – heroin, meth, and cocaine all cause thousands of deaths a year. We have death tolls that tell us which is “worst”, but they’re all life-altering bad.

Learn what two of the most dangerous three can do to a user below.

A Quick Disclaimer

It’s almost impossible to rank which drug is the most dangerous for your health. Why? Because of the way one drug acts on someone is different than the way it acts on another person. At least in subtle ways.

Some people try drugs once and can stop cold turkey. Other people are addicted from the first hit/puff/sniff. It’s all about how your body processes things and if you have addiction in your family.

Or if you’re predisposed to addiction from other factors, like your mental health.

That said – we’re going to use data that shows the number of deaths per drug to rank the dangerous drugs below, but keep in mind there is no real order- at least on an individual basis.

The Most Addictive Drugs: Heroin

Which drug have we seen an uptick of use within the last five years? Unfortunately, it’s not something relatively mild, like Cannabis.

It’s one of the most dangerous drugs (the most deaths), heroin.

Perhaps it’s because the people doing Heroin these days didn’t grow up hearing stories of people overdosing. There hasn’t been a famous death from heroin in quite a while.

At least not one as well-covered as Jim Morrison’s or Sid Vicious’. 

There were over 10,000 deaths from Heroin use in the US, in 2014, and the number goes up every year.

Why is Heroin so Dangerous?

Heroin is very addictive, you can compare it to things we’re seeing now, like fentanyl. In fact, they’re not that chemically different.

Both are depressants, which means they relax your body and create a feeling of euphoria. Both are types of opiates, which are derived from the Poppy plant.

If you’ve ever heard of Opium dens in Asian history – these were the kind of drugs they were doing.

However, heroin is very hard to administer. You can both snort and smoke the powder, but most choose to shoot it up – that is, insert it straight into their bloodstream through their veins.

That involves needles, which aren’t something you want to play with at home. Many heroin addicts care more about getting high than the quality and sterilization of the needle, which is how bloodborne diseases spread.

There are higher rates of hepatitis and HIV-Aids among intravenous drug users.

The Addictive Factor

Heroin is extremely addictive. One addict said that you feel so good on Heroin that you never feel that good again once you’re sober.

If it makes you really feel that good, you can see how quickly it becomes addictive.

But it’s not just that. The body builds up a tolerance to heroin as it does with any other drug. As you build up a tolerance, you have to shoot up more every time, to get the same effect.

And since heroin processes as morphine in your brain, it’s like turning the morphine drip to the highest setting – that’ll shut down your body’s processes and kill you just like that.

Issues with Purity

As if all that wasn’t dangerous enough, it’s rare to get pure heroin anymore. The purest heroin is a white powder, but most of the time it’s seen as tan or brownish. There is some that are black – which you’ve probably heard called black tar heroin.

The problem is, the darker the color, the worse the quality. Drug dealers are famous for “cutting” their drugs, which means that they add in another substance so they have more to sell/

Rat poison is commonly found in heroin, as is fentanyl. Laundry detergent and flour are two other, less harmful ingredients.

Yet- you saw what happened with the Tide Pod challenge. Do you really want to insert those kinds of chemicals into your blood?

Let us answer that for you: you don’t.

Finally, some drug dealers put pure caffeine into the heroin. While this doesn’t sound so dangerous, it can mask the signs of an overdose.

If someone doesn’t feel as high from the drug because of the caffeine, they may take more – and end up administering a lethal dose.

Second Place: Meth

It’s not easy to rank drugs. While there are fewer deaths due to meth use, Meth has a much more visible effect on your body. It’s not a drug anyone who values their looks want to use.

It’s highly addictive as well, probably as addictive (if not more) as heroin. It’s smoked or snorted, so it’s an easier delivery method than shooting up.

Along with the addictive aspect, meth restructures how your brain works – and that can last for up to a week after your last dose.

Drug-Induced Psychosis 

It’s common to experience drug-induced psychosis when coming down from meth. That means that your body experiences some of the symptoms of things like multiple personality disorder and schizophrenia as it tries to regain a sense of normality.

Both of those disorders can create delusions and hallucinations. Delusions can drive people to do dangerous and crazy things, like jump off a bridge if they think someone’s chasing them.

You also see the damage of the teeth, the lungs, the nervous system, and the skin in meth users. They famously have sores all over their body, as one of the common delusions is feeling like you have bugs crawling under your skin.

A lot of the deaths from meth don’t come from the direct use of the drug – but what it causes people to do.

That said, the number of deaths due to meth according to this CDC report was 3,495 in 2014. That’s almost a third of the deaths from heroin, but again, it doesn’t count drug-use-accident related cases.

There are No Good Drugs

When it comes to drugs – you shouldn’t do them unless you’re directed to by a doctor. And if you are directed to by a doctor, only do so in the exact fashion and for the exact amount of time as they direct.

The most addictive drugs are heroin and meth, but benzodiazepines (think, Xanax) and cocaine also make the list.

If you suspect a loved one is using one of these dangerous drugs (or any other!) get them to a rehab center, as soon as possible. Here’s a list of centers nearby, for your convenience. 

References:

Article Reviewed by Dr. Keerthy Sunder, MD, DFAPA

Dr. Keerthy Sunder, MD, DFAPADr. Keerthy Sunder, MD is an accomplished and internationally recognized expert in the field of addiction. He has earned diplomates from the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology, the American Board of Addiction Medicine, and the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.