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On Drug Facts Chat Day, we get thousands of questions about drugs from high school students all over the country. Today, we’re taking one from Casa Grande Union High School in Arizona:
"Which drug is most addictive?"
Let’s start with this basic truth—although some drugs are stronger or more powerful than others, all drugs are potentially dangerous. Each has a way of tapping into your brain’s pleasure circuitry and altering your physical or emotional state. And this means that any of them can lead to abuse and addiction.
But what makes one drug more addictive than another has to do with a person’s environment (like stress, or friends who use drugs), the type of drug, and how much it’s used—even genes have a role in whether or not someone becomes addicted.
Scientists have already identified a particular gene that makes some people more likely to become addicted to nicotine, the drug found in cigarettes and other tobacco products. All these factors affect the individual person in different ways, which is why everyone’s experience with drug addiction is unique.
Even so, some of the most intoxicating drugs out there will take fewer doses over a shorter period of time for many people to become addicted. This includes cocaine, methamphetamine, and heroin.
And a high dose of a weaker drug taken more often over the same period of time could lead to addiction for some people as well. It’s a hard call to make in advance.