What is the Most Addictive Drug in the World?

Many people wonder “what is the most addictive drug in the world?. While we often consider the answer to be a matter of opinion, there have been studies to help establish a scientific answer. According to the World Health Organization, around 15.3 million individuals globally have a problem with addiction. Have you ever wondered what the most addictive drug in the world is?

What Makes a Substance Addictive?

Perhaps we should start by asking, what makes a substance addictive? To ensure the survival of our species, our brains release the chemical dopamine to reward us and make us feel good whenever we do something that promotes our survival. Any time we eat a steak or have sex, dopamine gets released in the brain.

Addictive substances, however, lead to a much faster and much larger release of dopamine in the brain than any natural reward like a porterhouse steak could. The desire for this reward is what leads some individuals to addiction or a compulsion to find and use drugs no matter what negative consequences may result.

So what is the most addictive drug in the world? According to Professor David Nutt, the answer is heroin.

Nutt and his fellow researchers developed a scale in 2007 to assess the relative harm of various drugs of abuse. While the scale has inspired debate among researchers, it is a clear attempt to assess and compare the deleterious effects of drugs based on a methodology that is transparent and understandable.

Heroin is an opiate derived from the poppy plant, the same plant responsible for making powerful painkillers. Heroin comes in a powder form that can be injected, snorted, or smoked. Users may experience feelings of euphoria, pain relief, and sedation. About 9.2 million people around the world are addicted to heroin.

Nutt and his fellow researchers ranked heroin as the most addictive drug in the world based on nine parameters. Among all the drugs of abuse studied, heroin was considered the drug with the highest risk of causing physical harm–both with short-term and long-term use–and the drug with the highest risk of causing harm because it can be used intravenously. Heroin use in the short-term can lead to respiratory and nervous system depression that can be fatal. Chronic use of the drug can lead to serious infections as well as diseases of the lungs, kidneys, and liver. Injecting heroin puts users at high risk for contracting diseases spread through needle-sharing, including HIV and hepatitis C.

More than Just Individual Harm

Heroin is also considered the drug with the highest risk of dependence. Drugs that induce the rapid release of large amounts of dopamine directly into the brain give the strongest high to users. Users want to feel the intense feelings of euphoria that they get from a drug like heroin over and over again until they have used the drug so much that they no longer want it; they need it to survive.

Heroin is also the drug with the highest risk of causing social harm. Those suffering from heroin addiction are likely to harm themselves and others. Spreading disease through needles, committing crimes or having unsafe sex to support their habit and violence over drug turf are all social harms that heroin brings. In addition, heroin addiction can destroy a user’s relationships with friends and family.

If you or someone you know is using heroin or any other addictive substance, please seek drug addiction help today. Together, we can break the cycle of addiction.

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