Substances That Lead To Dangerous Addictions If Abused

Substances That Lead To Dangerous Addictions If Abused


The American Society of Addiction Medicine defines addiction as "a treatable, chronic medical disease involving complex interactions among brain circuits, genetics, the environment, and an individual’s life experiences. People with addiction use substances or engage in behaviors that become compulsive and often continue despite harmful consequences.”

Table Of Contents:

In 2018, an estimated 31.9 million people aged 12 or older used an illicit drug in the past month. Addiction can start with the experimental use of substances for recreation and enhancing performance. Substances may include both prescription medicines and illicit controlled drugs.

Some of the common substances of abuse include opioids, nicotine, amphetamine, methamphetamine (ice), cannabis, barbiturates and cocaine. They may be taken orally, injected, or snorted. Long-term use and a heavy dose of controlled substances can have adverse effects and lead to substance use disorders in the form of anxiety, nausea, depression, aggressiveness, hypertension, cardiovascular complications, seizures or convulsions, and overdose.


Cocaine is a highly addictive drug that comes in the form of a white powder. Crack cocaine or ‘crack’ is a crystallized form of cocaine used as a stimulant. Cocaine works in the body by blocking the dopamine transporter protein, which results in increased dopamine levels.  This increase in dopamine, in turn, boosts mood, attention, and memory.

Cocaine is highly addictive and quickly translates into long-term use.  The abuse of cocaine can increase the risk of adverse effects such as strokes and myocardial infractions.

Amphetamines and Methylphenidate

Amphetamine stimulates the central nervous system (CNS) by inducing the production of catecholamines such as norepinephrine and dopamine. Catecholamines are associated with increased energy levels, euphoria, increased libido, and higher cognitive function. Prescription amphetamines like Adderall and Dexedrine, along with illicit amphetamines like methamphetamine and ecstasy or molly (MDMA), are highly addictive and pose severe risks such as strokes and cardiovascular complications, insomnia, depression, mood swings, and fatigue.

Methylphenidate is a CNS stimulant primarily used to treat (attention deficiency hyperactivity disorder) ADHD and narcolepsy. Methylphenidate is a prescription drug commercially available under the brand names Ritalin, Ritalin SR, and Concerta. Long-term use can lead to dependence and addiction. Effects and symptoms include increased heart risks, abnormal liver function, seizures, paranoia, mania, aggression, and stunted growth in children.


In 2018, an estimated 47 million people aged 12 or older were past-month smokers, including 27.3 million daily smokers and 10.8 million daily smokers who smoked approximately a pack or more cigarettes per day.

 Nicotine is a highly addictive substance found in tobacco. Nicotine acts on the nicotine cholinergic receptors in the brain, triggering the release of psychoactive effects that are pleasing and rewarding. The effects are temporary and produce withdrawal symptoms that cause anxiety and stress, which build up the urge to smoke again.


Caffeine stimulates the central nervous system by inducing adenosine receptors, which leads to increased energy levels, metabolism, and concentration. Like other drugs or substances, people can quickly develop a dependence on caffeine, requiring them to drink more to increase alertness. While caffeine is a relatively safe stimulant, prolonged use of caffeine can lead to withdrawal fits, especially after abruptly quitting caffeine.


Opioids include compounds that are naturally extracted from the poppy plant or opium (opiates), as well as compounds that are synthetically manufactured. Opioids are generally prescribed for pain management. Examples of opiates are codeine, 6-MAM, and morphine.  Synthetic opioids include drugs such as oxycodone, hydrocodone, fentanyl, meperidine, and methadone.

Its affordability and ease of availability have made it a popular drug for illicit use. In the United States, at least 140 people die from an overdose. Two-thirds of these deaths arise from opioids. This exponential growth in the number of deaths and hospitalizations from opioids is collectively referred to as the "opioids epidemic."

Barbiturates and Benzodiazepines

Barbiturates and Benzodiazepines are prescription CNS depressants that slow down brain activity. Many people use them as recreational drugs. Continued use of CNS depressants comes with the risk of addiction and can have serious repercussions, including muscle weakness, slurred speech, reduced heart rate, cognitive dissonance, confusion, and dizziness.  Examples of barbiturates include Phenobarbital and secobarbital (Seconal). Benzodiazepines examples include diazepam(Valium), asprazolam(Xanax), and Lorazepam(Ativam)


Cannabis is a common substance of abuse. Like other controlled substances, long-term use of cannabis can lead to a disorder known as 'MMJ use disorder' in which a person suffers from withdrawal symptoms after quitting. The 'Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders' (DSM-5) used by physicians and psychiatrists to treat mental disorders defines MMJ use disorder as a condition that results from dependence and abuse of cannabis.

While not everyone who uses cannabis develops an addiction, continued use may lead to conditions and behaviors that may debilitate the body from functioning optimally. Some of the long-term effects of cannabis use include anxiety, insomnia, loss of appetite, aggression, decreased pulse rate, and memory loss.

Making peace with addiction

Drug addiction is a serious menace that affects individuals and society at multiple levels.  In the United States alone, the war on drugs that began in the 1970s has cost nearly 1 trillion dollars. Yet, there seems no sign of end in sight, with drug addiction and overdose being the leading cause of injury-related death in the United States.

One of the reasons for this failed rescue mission to combat illicit drug use has been the rather narrow lens with which drug abuse and addiction have come to be viewed. Realizing that addiction may be manifested in any human behavior and not limited to drugs can help illuminate the problem. So, addiction may encompass sex, eating, shopping, gambling, sports, compulsive internet use, and the list can go on and on.

Today there's an increasing movement amongst psychologists, psychiatrists, medical doctors, therapists, and healers that view addiction as a human being's desperate but forlorn attempt to solve a problem: the problem of emotional pain, overwhelming stress, and lost connection. It has been found that layers of childhood trauma, construction, and suppressed emotion are at the root of substance abuse and addiction.

The conventional wisdom that addiction is a choice, moral frailty on the part of an individual, disorder in the brain primarily due to genetic reasons is increasingly on the wane.  Different therapy programs provide practical tools and frameworks to help you str. More and more, there is the recognition that the emotional and social component plays an integral role in the formative development of addiction.

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