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Top 5 Most Addicting Drugs in the World

Approximately over 35 million people worldwide are suffering from substance use disorder and need addiction treatment, according to the 2020 World Drug Report, released by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). The UN report also revealed that around 269 million people used illicit drugs worldwide in 2018—30% higher than in 2009.

There’s no question that addiction has indeed become a pervasive health concern that’s plaguing many countries across the globe, with statistics only varying depending on the substances consumed.

In this article, we cover the five most addicting drugs in the world, their detrimental effects, and how you can help yourself or a loved one struggling from addiction.

1. Marijuana 

Marijuana, also known as cannabis or weed, was the most-used substance in 2018, with an estimated 192 million users worldwide. Aside from topping the list of the most addicting drugs, cannabis accounts for more than half of drug law offences cases, based on data from 69 countries covering the period between 2014 and 2018.

Canada has one of the highest rates of cannabis use in the world, with more than 40% of Canadians having used cannabis in their lifetime. Marijuana is usually smoked, vaped, or eaten as an edible. THC or delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol is the main psychoactive component that produces mind-altering effects on users.

Constant, high doses of marijuana use can lead to drug dependency and eventually addiction. Studies have consistently shown that using marijuana in the teenage years increases the risk of substance use disorders and can cause significant ramifications in their developing brain.

Marijuana addiction can be identified in individuals who experience notable withdrawal symptoms when not under the influence of the substance, such as:

  • Irritability
  • Intense mood swings
  • Sleep difficulties
  • Decreased appetite
  • Restlessness
  • Cravings

These symptoms peak after a week and can last up to two weeks of quitting or going through a marijuana drug detoxification.

A teen going through mood swings

2. Opioids 

Beyond being one of the most addicting drugs in the world, opioids remain the most harmful in all major drug categories.

In the last decade, the total number of deaths due to opioid addiction soared to 71%, with a 92% rise in women and 63% in men.

Opioids are a broad class of drugs that doctors usually prescribe for pain management that work by interacting with the opioid receptors in your cells. Aside from pain relief, opioid drugs also deliver euphoric effects, making them addictive to most users.

In low doses, they can induce drowsiness, but going a notch higher or mixing with stimulants or depressants like alcohol can cause complications, like slowing down your heart rate and leading to a potentially fatal drug overdose.

According to the UN report, fentanyl and its analogues continue to be a key problem in the synthetic opioid crisis in North America, while West, Central, and North Africa are experiencing the same scenario with tramadol, another synthetic opioid.

Heroin is another fast-acting and one of the most abused opioid drugs. Anyone can develop physical dependence and heroin addiction within weeks of regular use.

3. Alcohol 

Alcohol is one of the most-used psychoactive substances among Canadians. In small doses, alcohol can act as a stimulant, boosting one’s confidence, energy, and happy hormones. However, as you consume more and your blood alcohol level rises, alcohol turns into a depressant or sedative, making you feel sad, empty, tired, or even unconscious.

Alcohol is not only one of the most addicting drugs; it’s also one of the most unregulated because it is not included in the Controlled Substances Act like the others. On the contrary, alcohol is commercially available almost anywhere in the world with little to no restrictions in terms of the dosage or quantity one can purchase.

It’s mainly because of this that harmful alcohol use and alcoholism are at colossal levels internationally. According to the World Health Organization, harmful use of alcohol is responsible for 5.1% of the global burden of disease and 3 million deaths per year.

An unhealthy relationship with this substance also leads to alcohol addiction. In the United States alone, nearly 15 million people ages 12 and older reportedly have an alcohol use disorder. Starting to drink at an early age, family history of alcohol abuse, and underlying mental disorders can contribute to a person’s heightened risk for alcohol addiction.

4. Cocaine 

Cocaine, or coke, is a potent plant-derived stimulant and is among the most addicting drugs sold on the black market. People who abuse cocaine usually dissolve the powder in water, snort it through their nose, rub it in their gums, and inject it into the bloodstream. Users feel an intense level of alertness, focus, hypersensitivity to lights and sounds, and euphoria before they crash as the drug wears off.

Cocaine addiction can create severe side effects, such as an increased vulnerability to respiratory diseases, HIV, hepatitis, and other bloodborne diseases due to the unhygienic use of needles.

5. Methamphetamine

Methamphetamine, also known as meth or crystal, is a type of illicit substance that causes a sense of high and increased wakefulness. Long-term abuse can lead to hallucinations, delusions, psychosis, aggression, severe dental problems, brain damage, organ failure, and methamphetamine addiction. Almost 15% of overdoses in the US in 2017 involved meth, and half of those overdoses also involved an opioid.

Five people in group therapy in addiction rehab

Drug Detox and Rehab at Freedom From Addiction 

Freedom From Addiction follows an evidence-based and individualized treatment approach to address the world’s most addicting drugs effectively.

Our addiction treatment programs include:

For more information about our drug addiction treatments, please do not hesitate to reach out to us. A member of our team will get back to you shortly. Contact us today!


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