Drug Addiction Treatment
What Are The World's Most Dangerous Drugs?
By BrightView
Published: August 7, 2023
Updated: June 6, 2024

Do you know what the top 10 most addictive drugs are? You might be surprised at what is on the list.

Substance use disorders should be taken very seriously. In the United States alone, there are millions of Americans facing some form of drug addiction. That does not even take into account worldwide drug use issues. What may start out as simply a bad habit can quickly turn into addiction when the brain becomes dependent on that substance to raise dopamine levels in the body.

For those who are ready to break free of a substance use disorder, drug addiction treatment can help. If you or someone you love is ready to overcome addiction, it’s important to know that there is hope. BrightView’s addiction treatment centers offer a new way forward—reach out at 888.501.9865 to learn more.

The 10 Most Addictive Drugs

1. Heroin

Heroin is an opiate drug that is made from morphine. This highly addictive drug can be injected, snorted, or smoked. Heroin can be found in the form of a powder that is either white or brown, along with a sticky black substance known as “black tar.” Specifically, heroin is produced from morphine, which is a principal component of opium. Opium is a naturally occurring substance that is extracted from the seedpod of the opium poppy. The United States is currently facing a serious epidemic related to heroin addiction and other opioid drugs (painkillers), including prescription opioids. Opioids, including heroin kill more than 136 Americans every day.

2. Cocaine

Cocaine is an addictive stimulant. This common street drug is derived from the coca plant, which grows native to South America. The drug is distributed as a white powder. Unfortunately, the drug is commonly mixed with other substances such as starches, flours, or even other drugs like amphetamines and opioids. Cocaine is typically taken by snorting and quickly delivers dopamine to the brain with, creating an intense high that is short-lived.

3. Crack Cocaine

Crack cocaine is a form of cocaine that has been manufactured into rock form. The drug is smoked in order to reach a high. Crack cocaine is similar to its derivative, however, it is quite potent and creates an intense high that kicks in faster. The chemical high lasts less time than cocaine (usually only about 10 minutes), so addicted persons typically seek higher and more frequent doses to regain their high. While the high from crack creates feelings of excitement, energy, and happiness, coming down from the drug creates the opposite feelings.

4. Alcohol

People often do not consider alcohol to be a drug, but alcohol addiction is an extremely common condition. Alcohol is a legal substance that is widely available. Similar to other drugs, alcohol takes effect by releasing dopamine into the brain. It is often called the “social drug” because it tends to decrease anxiety which relaxes people in social situations. Alcohol use can quickly become out of control when people rely on it to help them release endorphins. Alcohol can also cause severe withdrawal symptoms, so it is important that those addicted to alcohol seek treatment for their condition.

5. Fentanyl

Not to be confused with heroin, fentanyl has made a name for itself due to being the synthetic (fake, man-made) version of heroin. Illicit fentanyl is the leading cause of the increase in U.S. overdose deaths and has contributed to more American youth deaths than heroin, meth, cocaine, benzos and Rx medications combined. The majority of illicit fentanyl is manufactured in China and enters the United States through the US-Mexico border.  Distributors and dealers “cut” smuggled fentanyl into large quantities of batches prior to sale, meaning an uneven ratio of fentanyl to cutting agents and a high risk of “deadly batches”.

6. Barbiturates

Barbiturates are a type of prescription drug that used to be commonly prescribed by physicians to treat conditions such as anxiety. These depressants can be used in the treatment of epilepsy as well, although they are prescribed far less often than they used to be due to their addictive nature. Barbiturates are illegally distributed on the street and are quite addictive. Often referred to as “downers,” these drugs are used to counteract the effects of stimulant drugs like cocaine and methamphetamines. Withdrawal symptoms from these drugs are similar to those related to alcohol and can be very serious.

7. Methadone

Methadone is a medication that is often used in the treatment of heroin addiction. However, this drug can also be highly addictive on its own. For this reason, any time that the drug is being used to ease the symptoms of withdrawal, the patient should be closely monitored in a medical setting. Doses should be slowly tapered to decrease withdrawal symptoms while trying to avoid creating a secondary addiction to the methadone itself. It is also important to note that other drugs such as Vivitrol and Suboxone can also be used for medication assisted treatment without many of the concerns associated with methadone.

8. Crystal Meth

Crystal meth is a form of methamphetamine. This entire class of drugs is man-made and extremely harmful. All varieties of meth are stimulants and crystal meth is known for being the most potent and dangerous. The crystal rock is typically smoked, but can also be snorted or injected. This harmful drug creates an intense high and sense of euphoria. It creates excitability and pleasure and can increase focus. It can also evoke psychosis and aggressive or violent behavior at higher dose levels. The drug is very addictive. It causes the brain to become reliant on the increased dopamine and norepinephrine that it creates. Over time, this also makes the brain less able to produce these chemicals on its own.

9. Amphetamines

Similar to their illegally manufactured cousin methamphetamine, amphetamines are stimulants. However, these drugs are legally prescribed and used for treating common disorders like ADD and ADHD. Adderall is one such variety that has also been illegally distributed on the street. When amphetamines are not used for their prescribed purpose, not only can they be very addictive, but they can also cause a variety of side effects. These can include but are not limited to:

  • Trouble speaking
  • Dry mouth
  • Constipation
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Dizziness
  • Heart problems

10. Benzodiazepines

Benzodiazepines are a classification of prescription drugs that are often prescribed to patients dealing with anxiety. Pharmaceuticals such as Xanax are included in this classification. These drugs have largely taken the place of barbiturates for most medical use. Despite being prescribed medications, benzodiazepines can be addictive, particularly when used for purposes other than their intended use.

The title might say “top ten” but the reality is, there are more than ten dangerous drugs in the world that can be addicting and fatal.

11. Xylazine

Much newer to the scene, but just as deadly as fentanyl, comes a drug known on the street as “tranq”.  Xylazine is an animal tranquilizer approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for veterinary use. It’s more commonly called the ‘Zombie drug’ and is used to augment Fentanyl.  Xylazine is a sedative and can lead to a drop in heart rate and breathing issues in humans. It also causes severe skin ulcers, which could lead to infection and skin rotting. Traditional methods used to reverse overdoses in patients do not work with Xylazine.

12. Nicotine

 Similar to alcohol, nicotine is a legal drug that is readily available in many over-the-counter tobacco products and now e-cigarettes and vaping devices that contain nicotine in chemical form. Despite increased health warnings and crackdowns on the tobacco industry, in the United States, Americans who are 21 years of age or older can purchase nicotine and tobacco products. Unfortunately, it is all too common for these products to also end up in the hands of minors. A 2018 National Survey on drug use and health showed that 55% of individuals 12 or older have tried cigarettes in their lifetime, while over 17% of those same individuals had tried cigarettes in the past year.



Find Effective, Evidence-Based Drug Addiction Treatment at BrightView

There is help available to you if you or a loved one has a physical dependence or psychological dependence on drugs. It does not matter if the addiction is to illegal drugs or common legal drugs like alcohol, this is a disease that can take over your life. BrightView’s addiction treatment programs focus on providing a comprehensive, outpatient approach to drug treatment. We offer medication assisted treatment, or MAT, along with a combination of individual and group counseling. Our treatment centers’ proven approach helps patients achieve the best chance at long-term recovery while maintaining as many of their normal daily activities as possible. If you need help, contact us today at 888.501.9865.