What Are The 5 Most Physically Addictive Substances?

What are the most physically addictive substances and their withdrawal symptoms?

This is a question that most people have asked themselves at some point or another. It is also a common question for those with loved ones struggling with addiction issues. They want to help their loved ones but can’t figure out which of many possible drugs they might need to target with their efforts.

While there is no silver bullet in addiction recovery – no single magical cure that causes an addict’s cravings to stop overnight – certain types of addictive substances tend to cause more problems than others, they’re more physically addictive, which means addicts may experience stronger cravings for them, as well as experience more intense withdrawal symptoms when they stop using.

To help those struggling with addiction, it’s important to understand the drugs that are the most physically addictive. 

Here is a look at five of these substances and why they can be so difficult for addicts to quit.


Alcohol is one of the more physically addictive substances out there – something that anyone who has ever struggled with a drinking problem can attest to. Just a few hours after an alcoholic stops drinking, his or her body begins producing symptoms such as nausea, sweating, shakiness, and anxiety. 

These symptoms, called delirium tremens (or DTs), can last anywhere from three days to more than a full week. Delirium tremens is a potentially deadly condition that causes an individual to experience confusion, agitation, and seizures.

Alcoholics who quit drinking can experience withdrawal symptoms as soon as one hour after their last drink. 

What Are The 5 Most Physically Addictive Substances?

These symptoms may include:

  • Sweating
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Anxiety
  • Hand tremor
  • Insomnia
  • Headaches

Benzodiazepines (Xanax)

As you might expect from the class of drugs, including Xanax and Valium, benzodiazepines are very addictive physically. They reduce anxiety by slowing down brain activity—the same way alcohol does. When someone taking benzodiazepine suddenly stops taking it, they will likely experience physical withdrawal symptoms such as muscle aches, insomnia, diarrhea, and vomiting.

The length of time it takes an individual to experience withdrawal symptoms after their last dose varies depending on how long they have been taking them. However, people who take benzodiazepines for longer (and at higher doses) are more likely to experience more severe reactions when they stop taking them.


Heroin is another example of a drug that can create very serious physical dependence—as with other physically addictive substances, quitting heroin suddenly will cause the user to feel the presence of the drug in their system. Thus resulting in uncomfortable cravings and making it difficult for them to fall asleep or concentrate. In addition, suddenly quitting heroin also causes flu-like symptoms such as nausea, chills, and muscle cramps.

The severity of heroin withdrawal symptoms can vary depending on how much and for how long a person has been taking it. Heroin withdrawal symptoms often begin around four to six hours after the last dose as users experience such things as watery eyes and a runny nose, tremors, chills alternating with hot flashes, goosebumps, nausea, and vomiting. 

As time goes on, more serious withdrawal symptoms set in

These  withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Muscle spasms
  • Involuntary leg movements


Cocaine is another commonly abused drug that creates very uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms—in fact; cocaine withdrawal is similar to heroin withdrawal in many ways. 

When cocaine addicts suddenly stop taking the drug, they will experience fatigue, depression, and strong cravings for it. They may also have sleep problems, muscle cramps or pain, increased appetite, and involuntary movements similar to those seen in Parkinson’s disease.

Cocaine withdrawal symptoms typically begin about 30 minutes after the last dose of the drug—and should be expected to peak around day three. 

What Are The 5 Most Physically Addictive Substances?

These symptoms include:

  • Anxiety
  • Paranoia
  • Restlessness
  • Tachycardia (rapid heart rate)
  • Extreme irritability
  • Mood swings
  • Tremors
  • Headaches
  • Seizures

The severity of these withdrawal symptoms can vary because cocaine has different effects on users depending on how it’s taken. For example, individuals who use crack are more likely to have severe withdrawal symptoms as the use of the drug is more frequent.


When an addict is forced to stop using cold turkey it can cause violent withdrawal symptoms. Methamphetamine is one of the stimulants that cause the most severe effects on the body. It has become very popular in America today due to its psychological effects that are similar to cocaine but more powerful. The drug produces alertness, feelings of energy, and well-being, making it pleasurable for some people. 

However, after the initial high wears off, people experience extreme fatigue, which makes them want more methamphetamines. Whether injected, smoked, or snorted through the nose, methamphetamine is highly addictive due to its ability to release high levels of the neurotransmitter dopamine. Continued use causes a tolerance to build up quickly, which requires more and more methamphetamines to achieve the same “high” from previous doses. 

The symptoms include:

  • Depression
  • Loss of appetite 
  • Memory problems 
  • Violent behavior 
  • Weight loss 

The symptoms may last for months or years, depending on how long someone has used methamphetamine. In some cases, symptoms can be severe enough and last long enough to cause permanent brain damage resulting in symptoms similar to those of Parkinson’s disease.

In Conclusion

Many people who abuse drugs and alcohol do so because they are trying to escape from a state of mind where they feel out of control. As a result, when a person suddenly stops taking drugs or drinking alcohol, it can cause them to experience severe withdrawal symptoms – which often have very debilitating effects. Addiction treatment centers aim to help individuals overcome their addiction by creating a plan that will reduce the severity of these withdrawal symptoms and lower the likelihood of relapse.

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