This time of year, everyone loves a countdown, from the best songs of the year to the most commonly used (and most ridiculous) phrases, and everything in between. Recovery Unplugged is starting your new year off with a little bit of science by cataloging some of the most addictive drugs in the world. These rankings are the product of research of a variety of pertinent factors, including a nine-category matrix system developed by a team of researchers led by University of Bristol Professor David Nutt, as well as the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) 2017 National Survey of Drug Use and Health. They include the legal and illicit most addictive drugs, and were determined according to scope of use, fatality, impact on dopamine levels and more.
No big surprise here. Heroin continues to be the most deadly and addictive illicit substance, killing over 15,000 Americans and rendering nearly half a million more addicted as of 2017. Heroin and prescription opioids, which were responsible for over 40,000 deaths that same year, are practically identical in chemical makeup.
For those who think they can casually nurse a cocaine habit, take notice: In 2017, an estimated 2.2 million people aged 12 or older were current users of cocaine (Figure 11), including about 473,000 current users of crack. Overdose deaths increased from under 11,000 in 2016 to nearly 15,000 in 2017.
The undisputed king of addiction reigns supreme. More than two thirds of first-time smokers become dependent, and cigarettes continue to kill thousands of Americans, drive up healthcare costs and completely dismantle users’ health and quality of life. Among the 48.7 million current cigarette smokers aged 12 or older in 2017, 27.8 million were daily cigarette smokers.
We know, we know…nobody wants to hear about how addictive alcohol so soon after New Year’s Eve. The fact remains, however, that 66.6 million Americans were binge drinkers in the past month, and 16.7 million were heavy drinkers in the past months in 2017.
As we surge into 2019, these four most addictive drugs, as well as new dangers, such as fentanyl and other synthetic opioids, represent the most urgent public health crisis of our time. Clinicians, researchers, law enforcement personnel, legislators, prevention advocates and other stakeholders in the addiction treatment conversation, have their work cut out for them as they endeavor to collaborate on comprehensive solutions and reforms. If you or someone you care about is struggling from any of the above substance use issues, or any others, we are here to help you start the year off on the right foot.