What's the world's most addictive drug?

Based on all of the media coverage for heroin, I’ve always assumed that it’s the most addictive drug in the world. Are there other, lesser-known drugs that are even more addictive than heroin? Also, is there some kind of “scale of addictiveness” for drugs? If so, where do other legal drugs such as alcohol and nicotine fall on the scale?


Besides me, I have a couple (read: one) guesses.

Nicotine is supposedly more so. Many people say that quitting smoking was immensly hard compared to quiting heroine. These are shaky sources, however.

The Straight Dope Message Board?

If you could shoot up pure endorphins, I’d think that would be the most addictive drug simply because the brain would accept it readily and lower its natural production of them because it was getting them from the outside. That is how I understand the mechanism of physical dependence (the definition of addiction used here). Maybe the most addictive ‘street drug’ would be cocaine. I have heard that cocaine is perhaps the most addictive because it is small at the molecular level, passing the blood-brain barrier easily.

Here’s a list ranking the addictiveness potential of various drugs:

Nicotine 100
Ice, Glass (Methamphetamine smoked) 99
Crack 98
Crystal Meth (Methamphetamine injected) 93
Valium (Diazepam) 85
Quaalude (Methaqualone) 83
Seconal (Secobarbital) 82
Alcohol 81
Heroin 80
Crank (Amphetamine taken nasally) 78
Cocaine 72
Caffeine 68
PCP (Phencyclidine) 57
Marijuana 21
Ecstasy (MDMA) 20
Psilocybin Mushrooms 18
LSD 18
Mescaline 18

[Research by John Hastings]



I believe these are ranked according to former users’ opinions on which drugs are easiest to become addicted to, and which ones are hardest to quit.

IMO, with what exposure I’ve had to these substances (I’ve used, or at least tried, nine of them), this list seems pretty accurate to me.

I’m a smoker, and some years ago when I first heard that nicotine was the most addictive drug, I thought that was a laughable statement, certainly when compared to the addictiveness of, say, heroin. Now, I tend to believe that it’s quite probably true. I have no experience with heroin, but I do understand it can have severe withdrawal symptoms. I would imagine the exhaustion of the extreme highs and lows of heroin give pretty strong encouragement to a user to quit it. Nicotine seems to be more subtle; no extreme highs and lows, it just sucks you further and further into addiction, but doesn’t directly destroy your day to day life. It doesn’t give you the motivation to quit that heroin does, possibly making it even harder to quit.

This is all MHO, of course, but my vote would be for nicotine.

Depends what you mean by ‘most addictive’. You could use so many different criteria: user surveys of ‘how hard to quit’; assessed chemical reactivity with brain function; prevalence in the world; prevalance per capita who (a) do use other drugs (b) do not; extent of disruption caused by dependency.

I’d say whichever way you slice it there can only be one answer: religion.

Religion isn’t a drug? In my opinion, that’s precisely what it is. I’ve quit nicotine and I’ve quit religion, and while nicotine was very, very tough to quit, I’d say religion was even harder.

Actually Derleth hit the nail on the head and it is possible to simulate the result of hightened endorphine release beyond the natural potential of the human brain.

the term “Droud” I believe was coined by Larry Niven to refer to a wire implanted into the human brain and designed to carry electric current into the pleasure centers of the brain this stimulating them and creating instant and overpowering euphoria. While it is often thought of as fiction this is actually firmly grounded in scientific fact and has been publicly tested on various animals including primates who will forgoe eating and drinking in order to gain this stimulus, to the point of termination w/o the least bit of discomfort, quite simply because asll other stimulus is overidden by the pleasure stimulus.

According to the data this goes beyond physical pleasure such as orgasm, and includes a sense of emotional joy or euphoria. Being completely happy and content and feeling better than you have ever imagined you could feel- so much so that you could grin and laugh while having your eyelids removed and fed to you.

there is some data in regards to the social implications at http://www.wireheading.com but this page fails to comment on some other data which can be found by careful search that implies that this proceedure is being conducted on humans. Not as some conspiracy or government plot but people actually paying to have a gold wire run into their brains and connected to a battery similar to those used in pacemakers or other subdermal electronic devices.

While this may not directly qualify as a “drug” I would have to say that the potential for addiction is more near to absolute than anything else I have ever heard of.

Second place is sophistry. Sophistry is my addiction of choice followed closely by narcissism.

From my own experience, and from observation, I’d say the list posted by Cabbage is pretty close. I’ve used, or tried, several of the drugs on that list and I still smoke cigs.
Remember “Debbi”, I think it was? She’s the woman in the PSA who smoked through a hole in her throat.
I believe it. :frowning:
Don’t smoke, kids.

Gotta agree with spoke. It’s the SDMB. I’ve successfully resisted the others.

zen101 said

Give us a cite, please. Thanks.

You may want to consider the difficulty in withdrawl from a medical viewpoint. People who work in the field of Addiction tell me that withdrawl from herion is no fun but not medically dangerous. Withdrawl from alcohol is. People can die!
Any Doc. out there want to comment?

The most addictive substance is tomatoes.


…from living here in the West,

The MOST addictive drug is fame.

You know it’s true.

Sigmund Freud described masturbation as the only real addiction – what he termed the primal addiction – for which later addictions (to alcohol, tobacco, morphine, etc.) are substitutes. So does that make this addiction the hardest one to beat?


I can tell you from experience that nicotine definitely is not hard to quit. I’ve done it many, many times.

I think I’ve managed to ingest almost all of the drugs mentioned in the list except for XTC, and nicotine has been the only substance that I have had persistant and extreme difficulty kicking. Don’t know if the OP was refering to just physiological dependance or not, but personal experience has taught me that nicotine is very addicting beyond mere physical craving.


I believe that there is a much stronger synthesised heroin type drug.

This was from a tv prog about a self-taught US chemist who had some amazing equipment in his house, literally millions of dollars worht which was financed by the drug he produced.

According to other chemists the man was more like an eccentric genius who was more interested in the intellectual aspects of what he did.

When police broke into his property they were astuonded by the sophistication of his set up.

The drug was so strong that to handle it required closed air breathing appuratus and full chemical warfare suits.

Hope someone can get this from my description.


#1) Who is John Hastings and who are the experts to which the authors at that site refer? This exactly the type of “information” that people claim is true because they saw it on the internet.

#2) You can die from alcohol withdrawl? I doubt it. I’d like to hear from someone who knows for sure.

#3) You CAN die from barbiturate withdrawl and Seconal (ranked with an 82) is one.

#4) Lists like these have to be taken with a grain of salt (probably way down on the list) - they are good guides, I suppose, but they are hardly scientific.