There are no drugs considered ‘safe’ to become addicted to, however – there are some drugs which are more dangerous and addictive than others. We’ve compiled a list of some of the worst, both legal and illegal and the reasons why.
A heroin high causes a euphoric and numb state of mind and body. It also releases 100 times the dopamine than an orgasm. As a result, it is the most addictive drug known as it takes over much of the brain’s natural chemical construct.
This can cause the body to literally need the drug in order to survive. As a result, withdrawal can be dangerous if not done under medical supervision.
Heroin was first produced in the last 1890s as cough medicine for children. Now, it’s widely considered one of the most harmful drugs. What makes heroin so powerful?
A study published in the journal, Lancet, ranked heroin as the second most harmful to users after alcohol, and it’s one of the most addictive according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. It’s also one of the deadliest drugs that is available today.
The World Health Organization says heroin users face a 20 to 30 times higher risk of death than non-drug users. So how is the drug so powerful?
How does it impact the brain?
Well, like most opioids, it works in specific receptors in the brain. Your brain has receptors for endorphins, the feel-good chemicals your body naturally produces. They help us handle pain and stress by inhibiting the firing of neurons. However, opioids like heroin have a similar chemical structure as those endorphins, so they bind those receptor sites, sometimes even more strongly than the natural ones your body produces.
According to a study published in the Journal of Neuroscience, frequent heroin injections desensitises these receptors. They get so stimulated that they wear themselves out. So over time, a user will have to increase their dosage to get the same feeling.
Heroin users reportedly feel a rush, lasting just a few minutes, that produces an intense relaxation. Afterwards, the high lasts for a few hours, where users feel like they don’t have a care in the world and they don’t need a thing. They aren’t bothered by much in their environment when in this state. However, speaking of environment, the weird thing is, it’s not just the high that gets you addicted, it’s all the associations.
Other problems that come with Heroin Addiction
A study published in the Journal of Neuroscience found that using heroin flips a switch in a part of your brain called the basolateral amygdala. This switch links the high of the drug with environmental triggers. All these associations come into play, like going to places you used to shoot up or visiting old friends you used to get high with. Your brain rewires itself to respond more strongly to these memories.
These neural pathways get stronger over time, and your ability to form new ones gets worse. You lose what’s called neural plasticity, which makes it harder to resist the urge to use when you come across these triggers.
However, on the other hand, there’s been some research that suggests people turn to heroin to escape their environment. Research from Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health linked heroin use to disadvantaged neighbourhoods and stressful lives. There’s no doubt that heroin is dangerous. It’s a drug especially prone to dangerous overuse because its hits can vary in purity.
Someone who is used to using 10% pure heroin mixed with some other stuff may purchase some that is 60% pure heroin. There’s no good way to tell the difference.
The drug’s deadly effects come from its relaxing properties. While you relax, it suppresses your respiratory system to the point where your body forgets to breathe. Heroin can also cause some serious heart problems too, even leading to a heart attack. As awful as this drug is, heroin abuse is still a huge worldwide problem.
When you combine all of these different factors, you can see why heroin is one of the most dangerous drugs and why there is never a safe set of circumstances whereby taking the drug can be deemed as safe.
Heroin by no means stands alone as one of the most dangerous drugs to be involved with. Others to consider are:
Amphetamines are a class of drug that is meant to treat ADHD, narcolepsy and depression. It acts on a reward circuit in the brain, causing rapid tolerance and desire for more if used frequently. The withdrawal can cause severe depression and lethargy.
This is a class of prescription psychoactive drug used to treat anxiety, insomnia, seizures, muscle spasms and alcohol withdrawal. Long-term use creates dependence for the drug all while increasing the symptoms originally meant to treat. Withdrawal can be even worse as it can create new physical and mental problems.
A painkiller that causes a pleasant, dream-like state of mind and is often used to help heroin users by reducing the effects of a heroin withdrawal. Nonetheless, methadone opens the doors to new addictions and can be even deadlier than heroin if abused. By some accounts, methadone is said to be even more difficult to kick than heroin and remains controversial in the medical field.
GHB is a naturally occurring substance in the central nervous system; as a drug, it causes feelings of peacefulness and euphoria. Excessive use disrupts the normal balance of brain circuits that control rewards, memory and cognition.
Mixed with alcohol, it is known as the “date rape” drug, with a withdrawal syndrome of insomnia, anxiety and tremors.
Much like many street drugs, nicotine mimics a comma neurotransmitter for normal brain functions. Though it doesn’t cause the rush of heroin or crack, it has the highest rate of addicts and is responsible for 1 in 5 deaths of smokers in the U.S. alone. Ironically, it is still one of the largest sources of government funding in many countries.
Alcohol is legal and often socially acceptable as it relaxes, reduces anxiety and un-inhibits users. Drinking can be mentally healthy in moderation but if abused can easily become a problem.
Excessive drinking causes loss of control over how much you consume while trying to get the same effect. Withdrawal can range from nausea, extreme agitation, tremors and seizures. In severe cases, withdrawal can cause death.
Has risen in its use over the last 10 – 15 years, powder cocaine’s high acts as an extreme stimulant for about 15-20 minutes. The short-lived high that makes a steady stream of dopamine in the brain causes the natural dopamine receptors to shut down. Cocaine becomes addictive as the brain craves the dopamine but can’t produce enough without the drug. Withdrawal causes extreme mood swings, irregular heart rate, sexual dysfunctions and even brain strokes.
Crack is the freebase form of cocaine and has a faster, higher rush that lasts even less than powdered cocaine. As a result, crack can be far more addictive and cause the symptoms to kick in much sooner. On top of that, crack smoke damages the lungs by constricting blood vessels and averting oxygen and blood from circulating. The withdrawal is brutal and causes insomnia, panic attacks, dizziness, vomiting, cold sweats and shivers.
Similar to cocaine, meth takes advantage of dopamine in the brain, but unlike cocaine, it actually mimics dopamine and norepinephrine.
This cause the neurons to release more of both all the while training your brain to need more in order to function. The meth hangover causes the body to crash and feel mentally and physically weak for days on end. Withdrawal symptoms range from psychosis, hallucinations, memory loss and severe depression that can lead to suicide.