- Tobacco (nicotine) – Over 40 Million
Nicotine addiction may not appear as harmful as many other addictions. This is likely because tobacco products are legal and easy to get, and the worst side effects of abusing them take time to develop. Tobacco use claims more lives than any that of any other addictive substance. Many smokers cannot quit despite knowing smoking’s impact on their health. Wanting to quit but being unable to is a telltale sign of addiction.
- Alcohol – 18 Million
The social acceptance of drinking can make alcohol addiction hard to spot. Despite its legal status, alcohol’s potential for abuse opens users up to many health risks and possible addiction.
Alcohol abuse has numerous negative consequences. In addition to deaths from liver disease and alcohol overdose, drunk driving claims thousands of lives every year.
- Marijuana – 4.2 Million
The legalization of marijuana in some states has made the drug’s use more socially acceptable. This trend can distract people from marijuana’s addictive potential. Rates of marijuana addiction might also be growing due to increasing potency (over 60 percent) over the past decade.
- Painkillers – 1.8 Million
Drugs like codeine, Vicodin and Oxycontin are commonly prescribed to treat pain. Painkillers’ prescription status does not mean they aren’t addictive. Addiction to painkillers can develop from seemingly harmless levels of use. Most patients who become addicted to prescription painkillers don’t notice they have a problem until they try to stop use. Painkillers are also abused without a prescription, which can also lead to an addiction.
- Cocaine – 821,000
Rates of cocaine addiction in the United States are dropping. The decline is slow, however, with an estimated 821,000 Americans still addicted as of 2011. Crack cocaine, which is cheaper and more intense than regular cocaine, is responsible for many crippling addictions and ruined lives.
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Heroin’s severe withdrawal symptoms make beating a heroin addiction a difficult task. Treating heroin addiction typically requires a combination of therapy and medications to help manage symptoms of withdrawal and cravings.
Heroin abuse has been growing in the United States, particularly among young women. There is growing concern over heroin users contracting and spreading diseases like HIV and AIDS by sharing needles for injection.
- Benzodiazepines – 400,000
“Benzos” — such as Valium, Xanax, Diazepam and Klonopin — are prescribed as mood-regulating drugs to manage conditions like anxiety and stress. Those developing an addiction to these drugs oftentimes aren’t aware until they can’t function normally without the substance.
Benzodiazepines are especially dangerous because of their powerful impact on the brain’s chemical makeup. Withdrawals can be deadly without medical assistance during detox.
- Stimulants – 329,000
Stimulants range from prescription drugs, such as Adderall or Ritalin, to illicit substances like meth. These drugs are highly addictive, and intense withdrawal symptoms make quitting difficult. Stimulant users can quickly build a tolerance to the drug’s euphoric “high,” leading to increased use and risk of overdose.
- Inhalants – 140,000.
Inhalant addiction is particularly dangerous because inhalants are volatile toxic substances. The effects of these substances — gasoline, household cleaning products, aerosols — are intense and can have immediate consequences including hospitalization or death. Chemicals prevalent in inhalants can linger in the body and brain long after stopping use, making complete recovery more difficult.
- Sedatives (barbiturates) – 78,000
Millions of Americans are prescribed barbiturate sedatives, commonly known as sleeping pills, to treat tension and sleep disorders. Every year, thousands of prescription users build a tolerance — and ensuing addiction — to drugs like Lunesta and Ambien. Sleeping pills can produce mind-altering effects that lead to continued abuse.