A person holding a small mirror with pills on it. Photo by Matteo Badini on Unsplash

There are many addictive substances in this world. Some are so common you can buy them with your milk and eggs. Others are illegal or not socially accepted. But all addictive substances can cause dependence and harm in your life. 

1. Tobacco (Nicotine)

A person in the dark lighting a cigarette. Photo by A B E D K A Y A L I on Unsplash

Tobacco use takes more lives than any other addictive substance. There are more than 480,000 deaths related to tobacco use every year in the US.

Nicotine is the main addictive ingredient in tobacco. Although nicotine itself doesn't cause cancer, many of the chemicals in tobacco do.

Tobacco products are legal in most countries and easy to get.

While the statistics for nicotine use are reducing in cigarettes, there is a significant increase in vaping, which also uses nicotine. Vaping is common and more accepted among young adults. Around 20% of people age 12 or older have reported nicotine vaping.

2. Alcohol

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Like tobacco, alcohol is legal and accessible to many. Since drinking is so common, alcohol addiction can be hard to identify.

Alcohol abuse can have many negative consequences such as liver disease and overdose. Driving while intoxicated also kills thousands of people every year.

3. Cannabis

A jar of dried cannabis flower. Photo by Budding . on Unsplash

Cannabis (also called marijuana) is legal in some countries but severely punished in others.

While cannabis isn't physically addictive like alcohol or nicotine, people can become psychologically dependent on it. They might also experience physical withdrawal symptoms similar to nicotine withdrawal if they try to stop it, like irritability, anxiety, depression, restlessness, and trouble sleeping.

4. Opioids

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Opioids are usually prescribed to patients recovering from surgery for pain tolerance or other medical conditions.

Even though opioids are often prescribed by doctors, they're especially addictive and dangerous. Because of their powerful effect on brain chemistry, they're one of the most misused medications because they provide numbness and relief.

Opioids include substances such as heroin, morphine, fentanyl, oxycodone, and hydrocodone.   


Deaths in the US involving prescription opioids increased by how much between 1999 and 2018?

5. Stimulants

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Stimulants speed up a person’s body functioning abilities.

Like opioids, this class of drugs includes both legal (prescription drugs like ritalin) and illegal substances (cocaine, crack, amphetamines, and methamphetamines), all of which can be abused.

Stimulant use can cause heart attacks, sudden death, and damage to the brain and other organs.


Which is an example of a prescription stimulant?

6. Sedatives

A pile of sedative pills in packages. Photo by Roberto Sorin on Unsplash

Sedatives are a type of prescription medication that slows down your brain activity. They're often used to treat anxiety and sleep issues.

Sedatives are classified as “controlled substances” because of their potential for misuse and their euphoric effects. They include benzodiazepines, barbiturates, and hypnotics.

While many people will use sedatives as prescribed, many others will experience sedative misuse and addiction. This can lead to mental health conditions like depression, amnesia, and anxiety disorder.


Can you legally drive while using sedatives?

Take Action

A glass of alcohol. The alcohol spills out of the glass. Photo by Vinicius "amnx" Amano on Unsplash

It can be hard to acknowledge that you may be addicted to a substance.

If you aren't sure if you should take action to control your substance use, ask yourself the questions in the checklist below. If you answer yes to any of these questions, you may be experiencing addiction. Reach out to a trained professional or addictions center.


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