Four of the most commonly abused drugs are prescription opiates, heroin, cocaine, and meth. Here’s what you should know about these substances right off the bat:
- Millions of people around the world are hooked on one of these drugs right this minute, suffering from the disease of addiction. It’s a global phenomenon.
- Of all treatment admissions for those seeking help for a problem with addiction, one of these four is usually the culprit.
- Sadly, every year, tens of thousands of people die from an addiction to one of these substances.
- If you’re using prescription opiates, heroin, cocaine, or meth; you could be next.
Let’s talk more about these four most commonly abused drugs and explain why they are so addictive.
First, Let’s Get Real – ALL Drugs are Addictive if You’re an Addict
For whatever reason, there seems to be a lot of conversation about how addictive certain substances actually are. There’s all this information out there about heroin being super addictive. There’s a far-reaching debate as to whether marijuana is addictive. Scientists continue to conduct experiments to see how addictive cocaine is.
Is all of this really necessary?
Let’s get totally honest with ourselves and stop looking at statistical data for a minute. We could all agree that all drugs are addictive. Any substance that works on the reward center of the brain has the potential to develop into an addiction. It doesn’t matter “how” addictive a drug is. An addiction is an addiction.
The cosmic twist of life is this – everything that’s bad for ya feels so good. If one is good, two is better. If it changes the way you feel, you want more. When you get more, you want more. And a double heaping of more.
Well, at least that’s how it is if you’re an addict. When you have the disease of addiction, anything that makes you feel good has the potential to develop into a full-blown addiction.
How Addiction Works – The Brain’s Reward Center 101
Most people don’t think of it this way, but the fact is that when you get high from a certain substance, you are actually getting high off your own brain chemistry. The chemicals in the drug interact with the chemicals in your brain. Together, they get you high.
Take cocaine for example. When you smoke cocaine, it surges your brain with dopamine and serotonin – two of the “feel-good” chemicals in the reward center of your brain. This is what creates the euphoric feeling crack addicts love so much. The trick is, it’s not the dope getting them high. It’s their brain!
After the use of a drug like cocaine, the brain is depleted of its own natural feel-good chemicals. This makes the user feel really, really bad. The brain wants to feel good. So, it causes the body to crave the drug to get the desired effect. The high. The feel good. Then, the addicted person uses their drugs again to feel good. Then, they feel bad. So, they use more. This cycle continues.
The brain and the body work together to drive the behavior that results in an addictive cycle. This is why an addict engages a relentless obsessive and compulsive pursuit of their drug of choice. It doesn’t matter what the drug is. The addictive cycle is the same.
Using Drugs Against Your Own Will – THIS is Addiction
As the disease of addiction progresses, the addicted person loses the ability to execute higher functioning in the brain. The decision-making process is completely interrupted by the chemical imbalance. All decisions become based in a never-ending self-destructive cycle motivated by the addiction.
People who are addicted to drugs do not want to be addicted to drugs. But, sadly, they are. And, as much as they might tell themselves that they are not going to use drugs no matter what, they will. This is inevitable. Once it has progressed, the disease of addiction will ultimately rob a person of their ability to execute free will.
Take someone who is addicted to heroin, for example. He or she will continue to get high while their entire life is going down the tubes. They will lose their job, their home, their car, their family, and all their money. THEN, they will decide to check themselves into a free rehab somewhere.
How does this happen? Why doesn’t this person come to their senses and stop when they realize things are getting out of control? Why do they have to completely hit rock bottom before they will stop using?
Addiction, that’s why.
Now that we’ve learned why they are so addictive, let’s learn more about these four most commonly abused drugs.
#1 Most Commonly Abused Drug on the List: Prescription Opiates – AKA Legal Dope
The United States is under siege by an opiate epidemic. In 2015, opiate overdose was the leading cause of accidental death in the United States. People are taking drugs like Hydrocodone, Oxycodone, Codeine, and Fentanyl by the millions. And it’s killing them.
Although the Drug Enforcement Agency has cracked down on opiate distributors and doctors in recent years to diminish the availability of opiates in the U.S., addiction to prescription opiates is on the rise. Prescription opiates are one of the number one reasons why people check themselves into an in-patient treatment facility.
Known as legal dope, opiates made available from a doctor are prescribed for pain. People from all ages and backgrounds abuse these medications because they create a feel-good effect in the mind and body. Essentially, this is legal heroin and highly addictive.
People who become addicted to opiates quickly develop a tolerance, meaning they need more and more of the drug to get the same effect. Then, the body becomes physically addicted, meaning it cannot function without the drug.
Those who are addicted to opiates get extremely ill without their meds and can even die from withdrawal. Someone hooked on opiates will most assuredly need outside help to break free from their addiction.
# 2 Heroin – When the Prescriptions Run Out
Most people know that heroin is extremely addictive and have a healthy fear of the drug (not that being afraid stands in the way of tens of thousands of Americans trying it for the first time every year). You should be afraid of heroin. It will grab you by the soul and never let go.
Why is heroin such an addictive drug? Just like any other drug, it makes you feel sooooooo good. And you want more.
There’s no sense in speaking half-truths. The reason why people become addicted to heroin is because it creates an extremely intense full-body explosion of euphoria for the user. Someone who has the disease of addiction is almost guaranteed to become hooked on heroin almost right away. Another reason heroin is so addictive is because of the way it interacts with the brain.
Basically, the human brain was designed to fall in love with heroin. It’s no wonder most people who begin experimenting with the drug quickly become hooked on the junk.
What’s happening now with heroin is that more and more people are pursuing it as an alternative to prescription medications. Many people are becoming addicted to prescription opiates and then switching to street heroin because it is much cheaper and easier to get.
# 3 Cocaine – It’s Insane in the Membrane
Everything you need to know about how addictive cocaine is can be found in one study involving rats. A group of rats were given the option to self-administer liquid cocaine. They were also given the option to take food and water. Every single rat gave itself cocaine until it died without touching the food or water.
That’s how addictive cocaine is.
Cocaine is different from heroin or legal dope, though. You don’t withdraw from cocaine in the same day you do opiates. With drugs like Oxycodone, for example, you will physically detox from the drug and experience incredibly painful withdrawal symptoms and get very ill when you stop taking it. Cocaine is much more psychological.
While you are under the influence of the drug cocaine, you will do more and more until you’ve depleted all your resources. Once you stop taking the drug, however; you will be uncomfortable for a few days, but you will not face the same terror of opiate withdrawal.
The problem with cocaine is the extreme cravings that follow a binge. This is what drives the user back to the drug time and time again despite the horrendous consequences.
# 4 Meth – Another Highly Addictive Substance You Don’t Want to Fool With
Whether you smoke it, sniff it, or inject in into your vein with a needle, meth is a drug in a category all its own. It promises a feel-good stimulant-driven sensation like no other. The problem here – like with all feel-good drugs – is that it is highly addictive. Some people lose everything in the pursuit of the next meth fix.
Also known as speed, the methamphetamines on today’s drug market are made of all sorts of nasty ingredients you wouldn’t believe. Pesticides, household cleaners, gasoline, rubbing alcohol – these are just a few of the things being thrown into the batches mixed up by today’s amateur meth cook.
People who abuse meth will binge on the junk and stay up for a week or more at a time without food and very little water. At some point, they reach a point of delirium caused by exhaustion and meth-induced psychosis. Those who are addicted to meth can become highly dangerous to themselves or others in a very brief period of time.
Try it once and you might be hooked. Stay far, far away from the meth!
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Addicted to One of These Four Commonly Abused Substances?
If you are using prescription opiates, heroin, cocaine, or meth, you have a problem. These drugs promise to take you from recreational use to a full-blown addiction in no time.
If you’re struggling with substance abuse, help is available. Learn more about getting into a detox, going into treatment, or find a 12-Step meeting. One thing’s for sure – without help, your problem is not going to fix itself. Things are only going to get worse.
Do you have experience recovering from an addiction to prescription opiates, heroin, cocaine, or meth? Share your experience here.