What Is the Hardest Drug to Quit?

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In order to discover which drug is the hardest to quit, first, we must analyze them one by one and see what the effects of each substance are. This will help us understand what makes quitting drugs hard in the first place. Since each drug has a somewhat similar line of effects, from releasing harmful toxins to activating the pleasure system of the brain – quitting them can be quite the endeavor. The process of reclaiming the ordinary life one used to have follows similar withdrawal patterns but is different for each individual. The difficulty changes based on many factors, i.e. the drug used, duration of usage, a user’s organism, etc. That is one of the main reasons professional help is highly advised. Lantana Florida treatment center offers a personalized plan to address each patient and their addiction separately to address each individual’s different needs.

What makes quitting drugs hard?

While there are many steps one must take to detox, three main obstacles affect the difficulty of quitting drugs. In the first place, there are the withdrawal symptoms, which can vary for each case; the cravings for the previously used substance, which depend on the substance and how frequent its use was; and the possibility of PAWS (Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome) which, as the name suggests, is a cluster of withdrawal symptoms that occur after the initial detox procedure.

#1 Withdrawal symptoms

The withdrawal symptoms fall under physiological or psychological categories and are treated differently.

The most common symptoms are:

  • Dilated pupils
  • Trembling and tremors
  • Muscle pain or aches
  • Hunger or loss of appetite
  • Fatigue
  • Sweating
  • Irritability and agitation
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Confusion
  • Insomnia
  • Paranoia
  • Seizures

As the individual becomes unable to function, relapsing is very common at this stage, which is why experienced clinical help is mandatory. Medical detox Florida has programs that offer a supervised and safe environment for the patient to recover, free of the fear of relapsing.

#2 Cravings

Cravings are also typical during withdrawal and early recovery. This is when the individual often can not manage without pharmacotherapy, making professional supervision in a clinical setting all the more critical. The duration of the cravings stage varies depending on several factors, like the frequency of substance usage, and they can also occur post-rehab, as the individual is exposed to addiction triggers, such as being exposed to the substance or seeking behavioral patterns of habitual substance use, etc.

Person sitting on bench while holding his head
Cravings are typical during detox.


PAWS (Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome) is when a set of impairments persists after a long time of abstaining from any addictive substance. It has its own symptoms and can commonly manifest some time after withdrawal from alcohol and drugs. Almost 75% and 90% of alcohol and opioid ex-users respectively experience some of its effects and its symptoms fluctuate in severity. They usually involve:

  • Difficulty learning, problem-solving, or recalling a memory
  • Irritability
  • Depressed mood
  • Obsessive or compulsive behavioral
  • Cravings for the substance
  • Difficulty in maintaining social relationships
  • Apathy or pessimism
  • Disturbances in sleep patterns
  • Sensitivity to stress

The syndrome’s severity usually increases when triggered by stress and its treatment is a combination of medication, psychotherapy, and group therapy, so the patient learns to cope with its symptoms.

It can be very challenging to deal with after going through the initial detox and trying to avoid relapse; that is why professional help is required. Dual diagnosis programs help overcome both problems, making it the best choice for someone who struggles with rehab and PAWS simultaneously.

What determines how hard it is to quit drugs?

Quitting an addiction is a complex matter. There is no universal scale of difficulty here since each case differs between individuals and multiple key factors are at play:

Doctor looking through microscope
Adjusting medication is usually required while detoxing.

#1 Addiction severity

One factor determining the hardships each individual will go through when quitting is how severe the addiction is in the first place. Addiction severity is diagnosed based on DSM-5 criteria which are:

  • Using more substance than intended or using it for longer than intended.
  • Trying to cut down or stop using the substance but not being to.
  • Experiencing intense cravings or urges to use the substance.
  • Needing more of the substance to get the desired effect.
  • Developing withdrawal symptoms when not using the substance.
  • Spending more time getting and using drugs and recovering from substance use.
  • Neglecting responsibilities at home, work, or school because of substance use.
  • Continuing to use even when it causes relationship problems.
  • Giving up essential or desirable social and recreational activities due to substance use.
  • Using substances in risky settings that put the individual in danger.
  • Continuing to use despite the substance causing physical and mental health problems.

The severity of the addiction is dictated based on how many of those criteria the patient falls into, and are separated into three SUD (Substance Use Disorders) categories:

  • Two or three; mild SUD.
  • Four or five; moderate SUD.
  • Six or more; severe SUD.

Different substances also have different addiction rates and withdrawal symptoms, as we will discuss in detail below.

#2 The individual’s recovery capital

Next, the individual’s resolve and fortitude, as well as their means and support groups, will affect the difficulty of quitting a substance and remaining sober despite the addiction triggers.

This is known as “Recovery capital”, or as Robert Granfield and William Cloud said:

[Recovery capital is] the volume of internal and external assets to initiate and sustain recovery from severe alcohol or other drug problems.”

This sum of mental reserves, resources, and support network can be broken down into 4 types:

  • The personal: This refers to the individual’s financial ability, self-esteem, and mental reserves.
  • The cultural: This refers to the broader cultural group to which each person belongs, either spiritual, religious, or other.
  • Familial and social: Meaning the personal connections and broader support that make up the patients immediate “external assets”.
  • The communal: Refers to the broader community that can facilitate recovery and assist throughout rehab.

#3 The co-occurrence of mental health disorders

This may seem rare, but surprisingly – it is alarmingly common. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (or else NIDA) finds that 37.9% of adults with SUDs also have mental illnesses and 18.2% of adults with a mental illness suffer from SUD.

Mental disorders like anxiety, bipolar disorder, depression, PTSD, or trauma can result in a dual diagnosis and must be treated along with substance abuse in order to avoid conflict between therapies.

Close-up photo of medical pills
Mental health disorder therapies affect detoxing.

#4 The co-occurrence of other SUDs

Similarly, being addicted to more than one substance at a time can make the addiction treatment significantly worse. This is also quite common, and SUDs may often overlap with Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD). In such cases, inpatient alcohol detox center Florida is one of the best and safest ways to treat both at once.

In addition, it is also quite common for multiple SUDs to overlap, primarily due to substance combination.

The most problematic drugs to quit

As stated before, each substance has different addiction rates and withdrawal symptoms; however, according to the previously mentioned criteria, some substances have proven slightly more problematic to quit. Let’s explore each one in detail.


A potent and addictive stimulant; its effects cause the user to feel energetic and cheerful, and its side effects usually include elevated body temperature and high blood pressure which can lead to increased chances for heart attack and stroke or even sudden death from cardiac arrest.

If left untreated, it can endanger the individual or even lead to death via overdose. A decisive and quick cocaine withdrawal treatment is mandatory for the patient’s well-being.


Otherwise known as Methamphetamine, this stimulant affects the central nervous system, speeding up the user’s energy levels after the initial euphoria it causes. Its side effects can include fatigue and weight loss due to reduced appetite; at very high doses it can cause psychosis, breakdown of skeletal muscle, and in severe cases, seizures or brain bleeding.

Since it is an altered and illegal version of amphetamines and is highly addictive and dangerous. Meth detox Florida has programs that can help treat meth addiction safely.


The use of opioids bonds the preexisting receptor sites in the brain. Endorphins are chemicals naturally produced by the brain and their effects are shared with opioids, (euphoria, reduced pain, etc). Abusing opioids overflows the brain, developing a dependence on the substance as the user’s tolerance to its effect increases. Opioid withdrawal treatment is required because its treatment is primarily based on pharmacotherapy.

Prescription Sign
Regular painkiller use can be addictive.


Heroin is a drug created from morphine, and it affects the brain receptors responsible for feelings of pain or pleasure. It also affects heart rate and causes sleeping and breathing problems. The most common side effects are dry mouth, respiratory depression, drowsiness, and impaired mental function. Since heroin is in the opioid category, it requires pharmacological treatments thus making heroin detox Florida the best bet for a healthy detox.

Crack cocaine

Although it’s made from cocaine, crack is even more addictive since smoking it causes a much swifter and more intense rush. Some research indicates that there are currently tens, even hundreds of thousands of crack users in the USA, yet the percentage of addicts in recovery from this drug is under 10%. This information shows how challenging it is to even begin the rehab journey after using crack. 

Open Prescription bottle on a table
Alcohol can negatively affect medication.


Each case differs, and the difficulty of quitting can be very subjective and depend on many factors. Still, with professional help, you or your loved one can quit any drug and reclaim the life you deserve. It is understandable for someone who goes through a complex procedure like this to feel overwhelmed initially. However, with the help of experts, in a clinical environment with correct pharmacological treatment and the supervision and guidance of detox team specialists, the road to a healthy lifestyle can be achieved.

Do not hesitate to take the first step and contact us today.