Whether it's sipping coffee or shooting smack, people have a penchant for ingesting substances that alter their brain chemistry. And that can lead to drug dependence. But which drugs are most addictive? As Eric Bowman points out in an article in The Conversation, the answer to that question is not as cut and dry as it may seem. From varying points of view, a drug's addictiveness can be judged by its street value, the harm it causes, withdrawal symptoms, or how pleasurable its effects are, among other factors. For his list of the five most addictive drugs, Bowman relies largely on research gleaned from surveying addiction experts. Here's what he came up with (in order of addictiveness):
- Heroin: Based on how it tweaks the brain's award system (increasing dopamine levels by up to 200%), heroin—dope, junk, horse, china white, etc.—is deemed the most addictive drug. With a deadly dose being just five times higher than a normal one, it's also a dangerous drug.
- Alcohol: This legal drug can increase dopamine levels by 40% to 360% (at least in rats). And about 22% of people who imbibe will develop alcohol dependence at some point.
- Cocaine: "Abnormal activation of the brain’s reward pathways" resulting from cocaine use can cause dopamine levels to rise more than three times the typical level. And some 21% of people who try cocaine will develop a dependence on it at some point. Bowman notes that coke is similar to other addictive stimulants, such as meth.
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