Food & Drink

These are the five most addictive substances on Earth

Posted by
Duncan Vicat-Brown
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These are the five most addictive substances on Earth 4

Those scientists are it again. A panel of addiction experts (made up of specialists from the Royal College of Psychology as well as chemists, pharmacologists, forensic scientists and what have you) have bashed their heads together and come up with a list of the five most addictive substances on this awful rock, and their results are… well they’re not shocking, but they will make you feel a bit tense at the pub later. 

They’ve based it on three factors: pleasure, psychological dependence and physical dependence. Probably worth pointing out that ‘pleasure’ isn’t the same as ‘good and fun to do’, it’s about receptors and euphoria and that. This list isn’t meant to be a tacit recommendation.

Here’s the official top five, which they’ve handily rated out of three; a system even more controversial than Roger Ebert’s ‘four out of four’ shenanigans.

  1. 1.

    Heroin (3/3)

    These are the five most addictive substances on Earth

    Probably not a big shock this one. Very Not Good Stuff. That full three out of three might come back to bite them when someone invents Super Heroin, mind you. The study points out that your brain “converts heroin into morphine, which binds to molecules on cells that affect how we perceive pain and reward” - which is why doctors are big fans. It does, however, also sometimes cause your breathing to slow down so much that it stops, so… yeah, give this one a wide berth.

    (Image credit: dkalo)

  1. 2.

    Cocaine (2.4/3)

    These are the five most addictive substances on Earth 1

    Again, not a massive shock. Cocaine fills your brain with lots of lovely dopamine, which is nice, but also makes you talk A LOT about how much you’re enjoying being on cocaine, which will stop your friends from wanting to talk to you. Horrifying fact: some lab animals loved cocaine so much that they chose it over food until they starved to death. Cocaine and animal testing: both very bad.

    (Image credit: tanj)

  2. 3.

    Nicotine (2.2/3)

    These are the five most addictive substances on Earth 2

    According to this study, 85% of people who try to give up smoking on their own relapse. 85%! They attribute this to the fact that nicotine’s effects peak within 10 seconds but disappear almost immediately which is, frankly, sneaky.

    (Image credit: Amritanshu Sikdar)

  3. 4.

    Barbiturates (2/3)

    These are the five most addictive substances on Earth 3

    Bit of a wild card, this one. On the one had, it’s prescribed for things like anxiety and insomnia. On the other, it’s what they use to euthanize people. We’ll trust the doctors on that one, but it feels like the general air of euthanasia would probably exacerbate anxiety and insomnia.

    (Image credit: wellcomeimages)

  4. 5.

    Alcohol (1.9/3)

    These are the five most addictive substances on Earth 5

    Sorry. You secretly knew this was coming, though. You may have been telling yourself “bet it’s weed or acid or MDMA or whatever lean is” but it is very much booze, the fifth most addictive substance on this, the worst planet. In the study’s own words, alcohol “interferes with messengers in the brain called ‘excitatory’ messengers, slowing our thinking, breathing and heart rate,” which is probably the most terrifying way that anyone has ever put it. Way to scare us down to a swift half after work, Science. 

    (Image credit: Tanja Heffner)

(Main image credit: Vadim Kaipov)