Addictive substances are everywhere, from the ingredients in the foods and drinks we consume, to other products we use on our bodies or breathe in daily. Here is a list of some of the most common and highly addictive substances and their effects:
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Heroin is an opioid drug derived from morphine, which is a substance extracted from the seed pod of the poppy plant that is natively grown in Southwest and Southeast Asia. It is made by separating the opium sap from other organic materials, filtered with chemicals and boiled until a dry paste forms. This form is morphine. Morphine is then mixed again with chemicals and water to make heroin.
Heroin can be injected, snorted, or smoked, and it interacts with the brain’s reward system, causing an increase in dopamine up to 200% the brain’s normal levels. Effects of a Heroin high include warm flushing of the skin following what is known as a “Heroin Rush,” dry mouth, vomiting, nausea, and a heavy feeling in the extremities.
Withdrawal symptoms will vary depending on the method of ingestion, but generally include nausea and vomiting, sweating, anxiety, muscle aches and cramping, and stomach upset.
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Cocaine is among one of the substances that tops the most addictive lists. Cocaine is a stimulant drug that has been extracted from the coca plant grown natively in South America. The leaves from the plant are soaked in gasoline and various chemicals to separate the base from the leaves, and then the base is poured into a mold, which is dried and shipped and sold around the world.
Cocaine’s effects on the body include euphoria, energy, mental alertness, and a decreased need for sleep or food. Depending on the method of ingestion, effects can last 5-30 minutes.
Nicotine is perhaps one of the more commonly abused substances and is found in tobacco cigarettes and tobacco products. Nicotine is absorbed via the mouth, lungs, nose, and through the skin and takes effect within 10 seconds of being delivered. When delivered to the bloodstream directly, its effects can increase dopamine levels up to 40%.
Nicotine is also seen as one of the most difficult drugs to quit, as withdrawal symptoms include irritability, increase in appetite, trouble concentrating, mood changes, and significant cravings.
Alcohol, like Nicotine, is one of the most commonly used and abused substances in the world, with the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence claiming that 1 of every 12 adults suffer from alcohol abuse or dependency.
Alcohol is a depressant that works on the brain’s reward system and dopamine to enhance mood, while depressing the nervous system, resulting in lowered blood pressure and heart rate, promoting sedation. Withdrawal from alcohol results in a host of mood symptoms like anxiety, depression, psychosis, and physical effects such as insomnia, irregular heart rate, hypertension, and headaches.
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Barbiturates, or “downers,” are classified as sedative hypnotics and suppress the body’s central nervous system depressants in an effort to treat insomnia by inducing sleepiness or when used as a pain reliever. These drugs are most often prescribed by a doctor in an attempt to treat insomnia, headaches, and seizures. Because they are so easy to obtain, and due to their sedative effect on the body, they are easily habit-forming and thus frequently abused. Barbiturates have begun to be phased out of use within the medical community in favor of Benzodiazepines, which are generally less habit forming, and thus seen as a safer alternative.
Narconon estimates that at least 9% of the population will abuse or become addicted to Barbiturates at some point in their lives. Effects of Barbiturates can be likened to that of alcohol intoxication and include suppressed breathing, slowed thinking, lack of motor skills, and emotional instability. Withdrawal effects include anxiety, nausea, insomnia, agitation, restlessness, and even seizures of hallucinations.
Methamphetamine is another commonly abused narcotic stimulant drug that is manufactured purely from chemicals and ingredients like pseudoephedrine, the common ingredient found in cough and cold medicines. Methamphetamine is a highly addictive substance whose effects begin quickly after ingestion, which can be smoked, snorted, or injected.
Meth’s effect on the brain increases dopamine, which triggers the reward system, making the user want more and more of the substance once its initial effect wear off. Short-term effects include increased alertness, mental clarity, increased physical stamina and heart beat, decreased appetite, increased blood pressure, and rapid breathing. Withdrawal symptoms will vary depending on how long the drug was used and by which method it was consumed, but generally include extreme fatigue, upset stomach, hunger, loss of motivation, dehydration, insomnia, paranoia, and agitation.
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Caffeine, although not a controlled substance, is one of the most addictive substances and is widely used as a legal stimulant in various foods and drinks. It is naturally occurring in coffee beans, tea leaves, cacao pods and kola nuts, though synthetic versions are also used in various foods, snack, and some over-the-counter medicines.
Caffeine’s effects on the body include restlessness, insomnia, dizziness, headaches, anxiety, and dehydration. Withdrawal symptoms include headaches, irritability, nervousness, muscular tension, and constipation.
Like Caffeine, sugar is another one of the most addictive substances due to its effects on the brain, which trigger a release of dopamine, much like Cocaine does. Sugar is a feel-good substance that provides a lot of reward when consumed, leading to over consumption and eventually addiction.
Like Cocaine, research has found, consumption of sugar functions similarly to that of Cocaine in the sense that more of the substance is needed over time to achieve the same effects in the first place. Symptoms of sugar withdrawal include irritability, fogginess, moodiness, and low energy.
The chemicals in these substances and the ways they work with and interact with our brains are what make us, the consumers of these substances, crave more and more of them, sometimes to a fault.
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