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7 Most Addictive Drugs and Their Side Effects

Drug Detox , Drug Rehab Alexa Iocco | August 2, 2022

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.

In a person who does not use drugs, dopamine produces feelings of satisfaction and well-being, as it enters neurons by attaching to dopamine receptors. When a drug continues to increase the brain’s dopamine levels, the body tries to balance it out by decreasing the number of receptors. Over time, this causes the person to be less able to derive pleasure from other things they once enjoyed like sex, food, and social activities, and creates strong drug cravings in the individual.

Drug addiction is a chronic brain disease, characterized by drug-seeking behaviors and compulsive drug use (even when the drugs are causing harm). Repeated drug use makes self-control and drug resistance nearly impossible while affecting decision-making, memory, judgment, learning, and handling stress and these changes can last a lifetime, which is why so many people relapse, even years after quitting.  

Addiction to drugs or alcohol, situated among the complex challenges addressed by the best rehab centers 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.

The 7 Most Addictive Drugs & Their Side Effects

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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


 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.


Benzodiazepines are a type of sedative drug that is often prescribed in the US 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.

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:

  • Medication-assisted treatment for a safe, effective detox
  • Inpatient addiction treatment programs, with the patient living within the addiction center
  • Outpatient addiction treatment programs like the intensive outpatient program or the partial hospitalization program
  • Aftercare programs for a continued connection to care, support, and a sober social life
  • Dual diagnosis treatment if needed to work with co-occurring disorders like mental illness alongside substance abuse

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 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.

Addiction Treatment that
Just Works

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

Alexa Iocco

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