It is common knowledge today that there are hundreds of addictive substances available, both legal and illegal. Each of these drugs can cause addiction if repeatedly abused, but there are many that are harder to quit than others. Below you will find facts about the top five hardest drugs to quit and what can be done to help individuals who have developed an addiction to them.
5 of the Hardest Drugs to Quit
You may not think of some commonly used substances as drugs, but they are. For instance, nicotine is a drug. As you smoke, the nicotine in your cigarette stimulates your body’s adrenal glands to begin secreting epinephrine. This hormone stimulates your central nervous system, which controls your heart rate, blood pressure, and breathing rate. Heroin, crack, methadone and crystal meth all have similar effects on your body or brain.
Because of nicotine’s ability to imitate a neurotransmitter hormone in your brain, it is one of the most addictive drugs you could take into your body. Like heroin, alcohol, and cocaine, as your body adjusts to the drug, it begins to demand higher and higher doses.
What’s worse is that nicotine has the ability to reduce the number of the nicotine transmitters in your brain. As of 2012, 60,000,000 (yes, that is “million”) smokers lived and worked in the U.S. The numbers of teen smokers actually fell in 2013. Even so, 4.5 percent of 8th graders and 16.3 percent of high school seniors have admitted to cigarette smoking. When used in hookahs, middle and high school students smoke at a higher rate – 21.4 percent. The use of snuff has held steady at 8.1 percent of high school seniors and 2.8 percent of 8th graders reporting recent use.
Crack has been transformed into a crystallized form. This crystallization means that, when a user smokes it, they will feel more of a high than they would by snorting regular cocaine. Crack cocaine is one of the more addictive drugs. When this substance is smoked, the high lasts for about 10 minutes. The high obtained from smoking crack is sharper and more intense. As of 2010, 500,000 people were reported to be actively addicted to crack.
People trying to clean up from a heroin addiction face a long, hard road in their efforts to get clean. Heroin is a high-fat soluble drug and can reach your brain fast. Its reputation for a high level of addictiveness is well-earned. One of the only ways an addict can kick his or her addiction is to begin using methadone, another opiate. Heroin is one of the hardest drugs to quit around.
When someone wants to stop being dependent on heroin, one of the better ways of doing so is to enter cognitive behavioral therapy. This form of treatment teaches the former addict to recognize and change behaviors that, in the past, led to their addiction. When you think about how many people get addicted to heroin, it’s easy to understand why several types of therapy may be necessary to kick their addictions.
While methadone is used to help heroin addicts stay away from using heroin, it too, is an addictive drug. Even so, doctors and drug treatment personnel view methadone as a suitable substitute for heroin. Once an addict and his or her doctor decide it’s time to wean the addict off of methadone, the process can be a very slow, tricky one.
Crystal meth – the same substance that was cooked and sold in “Breaking Bad” – has one highly unusual characteristic: It is able to mimic a transmitter made in the user’s brain. This unique ability creates an overwhelming desire in the brain of the user for more of the drug which makes this drug at the top of the list of the hardest drugs to quit.
Crystal meth goes one step further. Beyond imitating that neurotransmitter in a user’s brain, it actually begins to act like dopamine and norepinephrine. As the user smokes the drug, his or her brain vein to secrete more of both neurotransmitters – which leads to the user/addict to want even more. Over time, the use of this drug leads to the damage of the neurons that release the real neurotransmitters within the brain. Once these neurons have been destroyed, they produce much less of them. In what becomes a vicious, potentially deadly cycle, the addict begins to need even more meth.
How Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Can Help the Addict
The addict undergoing substance abuse treatment is asked to change negative thought patterns that, in the past, led to drug abuse. These thought patterns have been found to play a role in the formation of the person’s addiction, which means he or she needs to learn to identify those thought patterns. Once they know what those thoughts are (“I am worthless, stupid and ugly.”), they can begin to work on changing them in a therapy known as cognitive behavioral therapy.
As the addict begins to substitute bad thought patterns with more positive ones, they find they are able to rely more on their own internal resources when they are confronted with drugs or the ability to begin using again. In addition, as they are confronted with old behaviors, friends or neighborhoods, they will be able to turn down the offer of using their drugs of choice.
The addict imagines him or herself saying no to their preferred drug, then practicing this with support. Saying no won’t come easy. It takes repeated practice but, as they do so more and more often, they will soon feel the confidence and ability within themselves to stay away from drugs, especially the hardest drugs to quit.