The 10 Most Addictive Drugs – And How They Affect Your Brain

What are the most addictive drugs? The answer to this question varies depending on who you ask – some even debate which compounds can even be considered illicit substances. However, the fact is, any substance that creates a release of dopamine can be risky.

To cut through the clutter, a panel of experts from various disciplines, including chemistry, psychopharmacology, epidemiology, and legal services were asked to weigh in on which substances are the most addictive. Nutt and his team of researchers used a 3 point scale in their development of a rational system to assess potential for misuse & addiction. Researchers defined their criteria using a combination of quantitative data (such as the street value of the drug, the net impact of the drug on the human brain’s dopamine release, and the probability of the person becoming hooked, rate of success in remaining clean once in recovery) and qualitative data (self-reported descriptions of ¬†how pleasurable the drug is, intensity of cravings, and intensity of withdrawal symptoms).



It’s also important to note that potential for addiction isn’t always proportionate to how harmful the drug is. For example, Nicotine is one of the most addictive substances people ingest, but doesn’t carry the dire short-term risks as heroin or prescription painkillers.

Some of the substances on Nutt’s list weren’t what they were expecting, while others were exactly what you’d expect. Go to the next page to find out which drugs carry the most risk for addiction.