What makes a drug ‘worse’ than others? There’s no one way to say. The toll that addiction to drugs and alcohol can take not just on a person, but also on an entire community, is devastating. Drug addiction makes a nest for drug dealers, who often come with gangs. Gangs have increasingly leaned on selling drugs to addicted people as a source of income, helping them to expand their territories deeper into residential areas. This can bring new and rising levels of violence to once-safe communities.

While there are many ways that the harm of drugs and drug addiction could be measured, taking into consideration the ease of falling into addiction, the cost, and the harm done to the communities of people living with addiction to this particular and that particular drug was the primary strategy here.

While all illicit drugs can be addictive, tracking the abuse of illicit drugs can be difficult; law enforcement and drug rehab clinics provide much of the information surrounding drug addiction. Fortunately, the medical community has long been working for the health and safety of everyone, and because of this, new and better treatments continue to arrive on the market for people living with drug addiction. On your road to staying sober, however, it’s always good to know what other drugs are out there, and most importantly, why it’s always worth it to stay away from them.


Consistently rated as the most addictive drug, heroin is a powerful opioid painkiller derived from morphine, which is derived from opium. Heroin was originally used to treat severe pain – it was developed as an alternative to the highly-addictive morphine, and developed a community of users all it’s own. In fact, one of the earliest drug rehab centers opened to treat people living with heroin addiction. The most popular way of consuming heroin is injecting, but it can be smoked, or inhaled.

Since heroin is an opioid, it produces a blissful sensation that can make a user feel like they’re experiencing intense pleasure when injected directly into a vein. The effects of a heroin high, however, don’t last very long at all: on average, you may feel the effects for just a few minutes, though many people may feel the negative after-effects for several hours. Heroin can be especially appealing to people who have suffered both physically and mentally: the feeling of pleasure may temporarily alleviate some emotional difficulties, but the end of a heroin high can often have the user feeling worse than they did when they first tried the drug. Heroin is known to be powerful enough to get you hooked after one or two uses, and people may spend an upwards of $200 per day on the habit.


Methamphetamine was first isolated in Germany in the 19th century. Meth has a fascinating, tangled history where it was used as a dietary supplement, and an effective stimulant. Meth was created from amphetamines, known pain relievers that can cause injury or even death when abused. Meth has been on the drug scene since the 1970s, and where synthetic drugs are concerned, meth is one of the most powerful, and one of the most powerfully addictive.

Meth is usually smoked, but can be injected, or snorted. In the 80s and 90s, meth was more commonly known as, ‘speed.’ A meth high is stimulating, confident, and suppresses the appetite. Meth, though, tends to produce a longer-lasting high than heroin – the peak of a heroin high may or may not last for a half-hour, but a meth high can last all day, or longer. Part of what makes meth so dangerous is, like every other synthetic drug, there is no way of knowing what is contained in each dose. This, however, doesn’t stop people from spending thousands of dollars a month, if they have that.


Cocaine is a naturally-occurring stimulant that has been used for millennia. Coca leaves were plucked from trees, and chewed by members of indigenous nations for extra energy. When these same nations were met by European colonizers, the colonizers took a long time to understand that the indigenous nations had something incredibly valuable at their disposal. Hundreds of years later, in the middle of the 19th century, the powder form of coca was first created, and entered the market in Europe and the United States in the form of tinctures, balms, medicines, remedies, and even shampoo.

Cocaine’s ability to heal, though, was more accepted than actually proven: while it did provide energy, and some pain relief, anything with cocaine was addictive. A cocaine high can last as little at fifteen minutes, as long as ninety minutes, and can feel like you are your best self: energized, happy, confident, and friendly. Cocaine is a readily available, easy-to-take party drug that has been responsible for addiction, absolutely, but also for a rising number of overdose deaths. The price range for cocaine varies wildly, but it often runs several hundred dollars per month.


Probably the second-most-used legal drug is nicotine. Tobacco has existed in North and South America probably forever, with indigenous nations first using their native tobacco in ceremonies and for wellness events. That tobacco was far different from the tobacco that we use today: today’s tobacco isn’t a pure product, but rather one that has been altered, processed, cut with a number of chemicals, and long-term use causes a variety of different cancers, and raises the risk of even more types of cancers.

Cotton and tobacco grew the present-day United States from a couple of struggling colonies to a global superpower, and other countries took note, their own tobacco industries blooming over time. Nicotine education and prevention programs have had a positive effect in reducing the number of cigarette smokers, but there is still a new problem: vaping nicotine, which has nearly doubled in use among teens in the last few years alone. This is dangerous for young brains, as well as concerning for their future: vape pens became commercially available in 2003, so they haven’t existed long enough as an option for thorough research surrounding their long-term effects. Nicotine is easy to access, and relatively cheap, with people rarely spending more than $200 each month.


No article about the world’s most addictive drugs is complete without mentioning alcohol. Grain alcohol has existed in India for thousands of years, but beer is among the top-consumed alcohols in the world. Considering how incredibly widespread the cultural practice of drinking is, and has always been, it is no small wonder that alcohol is always considered one of the world’s worst drugs.

Alcoholism can often yield a violent, volatile person. The younger a person is, and the more they spend out and partying, the higher their tab will be.

If you or someone you know has been using any of these drugs regularly, help is available.

Talk to Someone Who’s Been There. Talk to Someone Who Can Help. Scottsdale Recovery Center® holds the highest accreditation (Joint Commission) and is Arizona’s premier rehab facility since 2009. Call 602-346-9142.