Most Addictive Drugs

“What are the most addictive drugs?”

If you’ve ever wondered this or even Googled it, you’ve probably found that the number of substances that can be considered “addictive” lies likely in the hundreds–perhaps thousands.

Certain substances like nicotine, alcohol, and prescription drugs, however, present a high risk of damage and even death. Understanding the risks involved, the scope of abuse, and the most commonly abused substances can be helpful in identifying the most addictive drugs.


Nicotine does not have as much of a “scary” connotation as other illicit substances. Nonetheless, it is a highly addictive substance and ranks high on the list of most addictive drugs.

Despite all the well-known dangers of it, nicotine remains one of the most regularly over-used substances. 

Addiction to nicotine often manifests as cigarette addiction, but e-cigarettes and similar nicotine delivery methods are becoming more popular. Smokeless tobacco can also be the source of an addiction. In any case, an addiction to nicotine can have serious consequences on the individual–especially long-term.

Though it may seem relatively innocent when compared to “hard” substances like cocaine or meth, nicotine addictions can persist for years. This prolonged abuse will leave the individual suffering from a swarm of health conditions. 

Studies on the chemical itself suggest that nicotine may cause cancer. The way one ingests nicotine, however, can alter what types of risks are most likely to manifest. Cigarette use or vape use, for example, can wreak havoc on the lungs, and cause cancer all along the respiratory system.

Nicotine use is extremely common in the U.S. and the world. In 2016, over 63 million individuals had used a tobacco product in the last month. This survey did not even account for individuals who used a synthetic source of nicotine–like that from an e-cigarette or vape.

This number does not necessarily mean that 63 million individuals were suffering from a nicotine addiction. Nonetheless, it does highlight the sheer scope of nicotine use.


Alcohol is close to nicotine in terms of being one of most addictive drugs. While not usually thought of as a “drug,” alcohol is a “psychoactive” substance–meaning it affects perception, mood, consciousness, cognition, or behavior. Since it is legal and easily accessible, alcohol abuse and addiction can develop quickly. 

Nicotine continues to hold the spot as the number one cause of preventable death in the US. Ranking number three, on that list, however, is alcohol abuse. Reckless use can lead to a number of dangerous situations. 

Drunk driving in the U.S. alone resulted in approximately 10,000 deaths in 2019. Driving under the influence is an alarming impact of alcohol use, but long-term addiction can lead to health problems, like liver damage, heart disease, or cancer.

In addition to DUI’s and long-term health impacts, individuals who suffer from alcohol addiction may also experience short-term health impacts. Consuming large amounts of alcohol in a short amount of time can lead to high blood alcohol levels, which in turn might cause dangerous or reckless behavior. 

Of course, DUI is one such behavior, but intoxication is also known to lead to violence, alcohol poisoning, or unsafe sex.

While alcohol use in general is much higher on average than nicotine use, the numbers suggest that addiction is not. One study found that around 14 million Americans suffered from an alcohol use disorder in 2019. This is a significant chunk of the United States population, and constitutes a large number of individuals who are at risk of both long-term and short-term risks for alcohol abuse.

Prescription Drugs

Prescription medications, like Xanax, Adderall, and opioids also have a high risk of abuse. Additionally, opioid overdose deaths reached high enough levels in the U.S. such that officials labelled the trend an epidemic. 

While these substances often have crucial medical applications, their potential for abuse makes them a two-edged sword.

The number of side effects of these substances is massive–too large to list here. Each prescription drug has its own set of risks and side effects. While these side effects may be mild in regular use, abusing prescriptions can result in damaging and even dangerous consequences. 

The potential for overdose is also worth noting. Nearly every kind of prescription drug can be fatal in an overdose amount. The threshold for exactly what amount constitutes fatal overdose is unknown and varies by person as some develop a tolerance. Thus, addictions to these substances can be lethal. 

While abuse might start as simply self-treating a condition, one should always consider the risks for addiction involved. It’s important to consult a doctor about taking a prescription medication as they top the list of most addictive drugs. 

Prescription drug misuse is less common than either nicotine or alcohol misuse, but the risk of overdose makes it arguably more dangerous. Continued abuse of a prescription medication can have all the same health impacts of alcohol or nicotine misuse, with the added risk of immediate, severe organ damage or even death. 

A survey from 2017 found that nearly 18 million individuals abused prescription medications in that year. This number does not necessarily indicate that there are 18 million individuals suffering from an addiction, but it does illuminate a rough number of at-risk individuals.

Freedom From Substance Abuse

No kind of addiction is easy. While these are just a few of the most commonly abused substances, nearly every addiction has the potential to be life-threatening. 

It is difficult to overcome addiction, but very possible with the support of caring professionals. Contact us today to find out how our dedicated team can help you in your journey to sobriety.

MountainView Recovery

5475 Mark Dabling Blvd #102
Colorado Springs, Co 80918

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