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10 Most Addictive Drugs and Their Side Effects

7 Most Addictive Drugs and Their Side Effects

What Makes Drugs Addictive?

The reason people begin to use drugs varies, depending on the person, their background, their social life, and their home life. Some people will use drugs as an escape, others may be curious, some may be prescribed addictive drugs for pain or other ailments, and others may have grown up with drug use normalized in their homes. Nobody starts using a drug with the intention of becoming a drug addict, but it can happen as the substances make changes to the brain’s chemistry.

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The brain has a reward circuit in the central nervous system that releases dopamine when something good happens, like eating your favorite meal or spending time with a loved one. This is a mechanism in the brain that is supposed to reinforce behaviors that would help human beings thrive. Drugs also cause dopamine to be released, tricking the brain into giving you the sensation that something good is happening. The brain becomes used to these high levels of “free” dopamine and feelings of pleasure that the drugs are stimulating, building up a tolerance and craving more. More of the drug is needed to achieve the same high, and the drug user will chronically misuse substances, developing into addiction.

Addictive Drugs: A Chronic Disease?

Addiction to drugs or alcohol, situated among the complex challenges addressed by the best rehab centers in Los Angeles, is both a chronic condition and partly a learned behavior reinforced by elevated dopamine levels. This implies that while substance use disorder can be treated and managed effectively, it doesn’t entirely vanish. Therefore, an integrated drug addiction treatment that incorporates behavioral therapy becomes crucial. In rehab centers like those in Los Angeles, individuals are equipped with relapse prevention skills, tools to comprehend their emotions, and new coping strategies. Additionally, maintaining connections with groups, peers, and counselors becomes essential, as they offer unwavering support ensuring one remains on the path to long-term recovery.

10 most addictive drugs and their side effects

The 10 Most Addictive Drugs & Their Side Effects

1. Heroin/Opioid Drugs

Heroin and opioids are a type of drug (including prescription opioids) that causes euphoria when injected, smoked, or snorted, and tolerance is created quickly in the brain. Withdrawal symptoms from these drugs can be painful, distressing, and extremely difficult to handle, motivating users to continue taking the drugs and creating an opioid or heroin addiction. Common withdrawal symptoms include severe muscle and bone pain, vomiting and diarrhea, cold flashes, emotional distress, insomnia, anxiety, flu-like symptoms, uncontrollable leg movements, and strong drug cravings.

2. Cocaine/Crack

Cocaine changes dopamine levels in the brain and causes intense cravings. It is a stimulant drug that comes in the form of a white powder that is usually snorted, but is also smoked, ingested, or injected, creating a short high, and building a rapid tolerance. Drug dealers have been known to cut cocaine with powders like cornstarch or talcum powder, or other drugs like Fentanyl, increasing the chances of an overdose. 

Smoking crack cocaine is the fastest way to get cocaine into the bloodstream because it is the purest and most potent form of the drug. One of the most addictive street drugs, crack looks like yellow-white rocks and is heated and smoked through a glass pipe. The high from smoking crack only lasts around 15 minutes, so users quickly become addicted as they chase that high over and over again.

Withdrawal symptoms from cocaine and crack include depression, nightmares, insomnia, fatigue, and malaise. There may also be issues with the sinuses and nasal passages, and people who ingest the drug may develop bowel decay.

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3. Amphetamine

Amphetamines are addictive stimulants that produce sensations of euphoria, increased energy, and confidence. They are found in prescription drugs like Ritalin and Adderall to treat ADHD and narcolepsy. There are also illegally produced amphetamines like meth that create short-lived feelings of euphoria, confidence, and an increased sex drive, with the ability to release up to 10 times the normal level of dopamine in one hit. 

Amphetamine and crystal meth abuse and addiction also cause teeth grinding, violent behavior, increased body temperature, dry mouth, and increased heart rate, and comes with withdrawal symptoms like restlessness, body pain, exhaustion, dehydration, nightmares, paranoia, confusion, and irritability, with a long-term decrease in the brain’s natural production of dopamine, as well as memory, emotional and cognitive issues.

4. Alcohol

Alcohol acts on dopamine levels like other drugs, and it is also a central nervous system depressant, causing sedation and impaired motor skills, slurred speech, and impaired cognition, with lowered inhibitions and a higher likelihood of taking risks. Excessive alcohol abuse creates numerous health problems, including alcohol poisoning, liver issues, stroke, memory problems, and mental health issues. Alcohol withdrawal can be severe, with insomnia, restlessness, tremors, irregular heart rate, hallucinations, and seizures, with delirium tremens sometimes resulting in death.

5. Tobacco/Nicotine

Tobacco products containing nicotine are severely addictive. It elevates mood and cognition, taking effect within 10 seconds of being smoked, and wearing off in hours. Nicotine mimics receptors in the brain and increases dopamine, causing the user to need to continue using nicotine products to maintain normal brain function. Withdrawal symptoms include irritability, anxiety, depression, difficulty concentrating, increased appetite, and strong cravings for nicotine. Because tobacco products are sold everywhere, the relapse rate is very high, with approximately 85% of people relapsing after quitting within one week.

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6. Barbiturates

Barbiturate drugs are central nervous system depressants that come in pill or liquid form, with the most common types being Amobarbital, Phenobarbital, Tuinal, Secobarbital, and Pentobarbital. These drugs cause a lack of inhibition, a mild euphoric sensation, anxiety relief, and sleepiness. Withdrawal symptoms include dizziness, anxiety, insomnia, psychosis, and seizures, and should be taken seriously as withdrawal may result in hypothermia, circulatory failure, respiratory arrest, and death.

7. Benzodiazepines

Benzodiazepines are a type of sedative drug that is often prescribed in the U.S. for anxiety and seizures, and sometimes as a sleep aid. Commonly prescribed benzos include Xanax, Klonopin, and Valium. Withdrawal symptoms from these drugs include insomnia and anxiety, panic attacks, nausea, headaches, muscle pain, and drug cravings. Benzo detox can be fatal in some cases and should be monitored by health care professionals.

8. Methadone

Methadone is a synthetic opioid often used in the management of opioid dependence and chronic pain. While it is used legally as a part of a harm reduction strategy (such as Methadone maintenance programs), it still carries a high risk of addiction. Methadone works by altering the way the brain and nervous system respond to pain. It produces similar effects to other opioids like heroin but is designed to do so without the high. However, its potential for addiction stems from its opioid-based properties, which can lead to dependency. Withdrawal symptoms can be severe and include symptoms similar to those of other opioids, making it challenging to discontinue use without medical supervision.

9. Ecstasy (MDMA)

Commonly known as Ecstasy or Molly, MDMA is a popular recreational drug among young adults, particularly in party and nightclub scenes. It is known for its stimulant and mild hallucinogenic effects. MDMA enhances sensory perceptions and creates feelings of increased energy, emotional warmth, and distorted sensory and time perception. Despite its perceived safety among users, MDMA can be addictive and has risks including dehydration, electrolyte imbalance, severe hyperthermia, and potential neurotoxicity. Its use can also lead to severe withdrawal symptoms such as depression, fatigue, and difficulty concentrating.

10. Inhalants

Inhalants include a wide range of household and industrial chemicals whose volatile vapors or gases can be inhaled to induce psychoactive effects. Common examples include paint thinners, glue, gasoline, and aerosol sprays. These substances are often abused by younger demographics due to their easy accessibility. Inhalants can produce effects similar to alcohol intoxication, such as slurred speech, lack of coordination, euphoria, and dizziness. Chronic use can lead to serious health issues including irreversible brain damage, liver and kidney damage, and an increased risk of sudden death. Inhalant use is also associated with a high risk of dependency and withdrawal symptoms that can include nausea, excessive sweating, muscle cramps, and agitation.

Gage Whisman
Gage Whisman
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Bethany Breaux
All of the staff and nurses at resurgence are phenomenal. They helped me a lot and gave me hope at my lowest.—the two different times I came to both of their locations. Costa Mesa and riverside locations. I would recommend their programs to anybody! That is if you are looking for detox AND 30 day residential, not just detox. Thank you Resurgence! <3
Hailey Thomas
Hailey Thomas
Milton! This was my first time in treatment and I was pretty scared but muse and staff have been incredible. Steve(o) and corrina have been my favorite! Make sure to go on the outings with Steve(o) he’s amazing! Corrina spoiled me and is easy to talk to! All the staff is amazing if I’m being honest! They work hard and always have our backs ❤️
Naomi Wheeler
Naomi Wheeler
I would recommend this place to everyone I know. This is the best treatment experience I have ever had. I was treated like family and all the staff was caring and amazing. I was able to work on myself from the inside out. I love Resurgence.
Tina Cargle
Tina Cargle
Best decision we ever made. The staff is amazing. Thank you to Lauren Sean and Nikki you guys are great we really appreciate all you did at Riverside thank you to all those amazing staff as well Derek Tyler Sarah Oscar and April you guys did so much for us we can never repay you. However you guys pick your staff continue because you guys do a great job once again thank you and mad love
KeeMo Beltran
KeeMo Beltran
I was totally scared of this unknown experience to a new state to take care of my health situation but the ppl and place was totally inviting and caring and helped me with my first steps to my new beginning to find myself. I'm so grateful to the Balboa staff and their patience with having said this I thank y'all so much...
Nicoli Gilbert
Nicoli Gilbert
This place was amazing! The staff went above and beyond the call of duty. Especially Amber, June, Claudia, and Ernie and Diago.I'm going to miss you. I would recommend this place to anyone needing help.
Samantha Lake
Samantha Lake
This is my first experience with a rehabilitation center and I couldn't have gone to a better place or asked for a better staff or facility! I've truly found my home away from home here! Nikki, Lauren, Mike, and Cortez, just to name a few have truly made a significant impact in my life and of course made my recovery process possible...without these people I would not be clean and sober today. I've found my family through Resurgence and I owe my life to them! There are no words to describe how grateful I am!!!!! THANK YOU RESURGENCE I'LL LOVE YOU FOREVER!!!!!!!❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️🙂🙂🙂🙂🙂

When Is It Time to Seek Treatment for Drug Addiction?

There are several signs to look for when you are wondering if it is time to seek treatment for drug addiction. These include:

  • Lying and keeping secrets, making excuses for drug use, hiding drug use, and avoiding the truth.
  • Stealing to be able to pay for more drugs.
  • Using drugs or alcohol as self-medication, turning to drugs and alcohol when feeling upset, sad, frustrated, or after a hard day. Self-medication may also be a sign the person needs dual diagnosis treatment for a mental illness like anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder or post-traumatic stress disorder.
  • Noticing a growing tolerance to the substance.
  • Experiencing job loss or expulsion from school due to substance use.
  • Being unable to quit substance abuse but being unable to due to cravings or withdrawal symptoms, relapsing several times.
  • Compulsively thinking about drugs, or worrying about running out.
  • Losing close relationships due to drug and alcohol abuse.
  • Needing drugs to have a good time, loss of interest in other activities.
  • Failing health or negative health effects due to substance abuse.
  • Experiencing legal trouble due to addictive substances.
  • Overdosing on drugs.
  • Feeling like you’ve lost control and your life is based around getting and using the substance.

If these symptoms sound like something you have been experiencing and you believe you need to go to a treatment center for opioid addiction, alcohol addiction, or other drug misuses, an addiction treatment program that integrates a medically assisted drug or alcohol detox, behavioral therapy, dual diagnosis treatments, and other holistic care will help you take back control over your life.

Drug Rehab at Resurgence Behavioral Health

The National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) has estimated that over 21 million Americans are currently battling a substance use disorder, so if you believe you may need help with your drug addiction, you are not alone. At Resurgence Behavioral Health, we offer the full spectrum of drug addiction treatment plans for those with substance use disorders, including:

Your addiction recovery treatment plan will be customized to your individual needs, with therapy and treatments provided in a holistic program designed to cater to your unique needs. These may include:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy, rational emotive behavioral therapy, and dialectical behavioral therapy.
  • Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR).
  • Experiential therapy, trauma-informed therapy, one-on-one therapy.
  • Couples therapy, group therapy, and family therapy.

Contact Resurgence Behavioral Health’s drug rehab today to create a plan that will work for you, so you can get the help you need, discover and heal the underlying causes of your addiction as you gain new skills, and begin to build your future as a sober person. Call 855-458-0050 to get started today.

Addiction Treatment that
Just Works

Individualized treatment programs delivered in a comfortable, relaxed setting promote healing in your recovery journey.

Josh Chandler
Josh Chandler
After growing up in Chicago and North Carolina, Josh chose to get help with substance use disorder and mental health in California because of the state's reputation for top-tier treatment. There, he found the treatment he needed to achieve more than five years of recovery. He's been in the drug and alcohol addiction rehab industry for four years and now serves as the Director of Admissions for Resurgence Behavioral Health. Josh remains passionate about the field because he understands that one phone call can alter the course of a person's life.


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