Recreational drugs are chemical substances taken for enjoyment, or leisure purposes, rather than for medical reasons. Recreational drugs can include anything from alcohol, tobacco or even Adderall. When a person uses recreational drugs, it is for the sole purpose of enjoyment or they think bettering their life. A person who uses recreational drugs do not necessarily use them every day or have and addiction, but they more so use them not very often. They may only use them once in a blue moon or a few days a week. They have not yet developed an addiction and urge to need the drug every day or even more than once a day.
Although using recreational drugs doesn’t determine that a person may have an addiction but that is how many addictions begin. People use recreational drugs and are able to control them and they believe they do not have a problem but before they know it, addiction has developed. Even once an addiction has developed they may not even realize it and could be in denial.
What are recreational drugs and why are they used?
Recreational drugs are chemical substances which are used for pleasure. There are many reasons people try recreational drugs. These include:
- Their friends are doing it, and they don’t want to feel left out, or not cool
- They get pressurized into trying it
- They are interested in experimenting with the effects, and seeing what happens when they take drugs
- They may feel drugs give them new experiences or perspectives
- They make them feel more relaxed, or more confident when relating to others
- They may feel drugs help them forget their worries or problems
- They may feel drugs make them feel happier
- They want to be rebellious
- They enjoy the effects
What are the problems with the use of recreational drugs?
All drugs can have dangerous effects. Many can be unpredictable and variable. There are numerous problems which the use of drugs can cause. These include:
- Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and certain types of hepatitis can be passed to others by blood on needles. This can happen through sharing needles, or from needle stick injuries.
- Most recreational drugs can become addictive, and the person can be dependent on having them regularly.
- A regular drug habit is expensive, and getting the money for it can lead to crime, especially when the person is addicted and cannot stop.
- Social problems. People regularly using drugs may behave in different ways. This may cause problems with their relationships or they may lose their job. Children of people who use drugs can be affected.
- Mental problems. Drugs can cause people to have bizarre behaviour. There are thousands of admissions to hospital each year for drug-related behavioural and mental problems. Drugs can cause people to develop depression or anxiety.
- People can become very ill or die from drug overdose.
- Illegal drugs are often not pure, and people don’t always know what they are taking.
- Accidents and fights are more likely after taking drugs.
- Unwanted sexual intercourse is more likely under the influence of drugs.
Which are the most common recreational drugs used?
- Other names: speed, whizz, sulph, dexies.
- How are they taken? Amphetamines are usually sold in powder form. This can be snorted up the nose, wrapped in cigarette paper and swallowed (“speedbomb”), rubbed into the gums, mixed with drinks, or injected.
- What do they do? An amphetamine is a stimulant, so it gives you more energy. You can keep partying, dancing, working for longer without getting tired. It makes you feel excited and upbeat.
- What are the harmful effects? It can make you overactive, jittery or anxious. Occasionally it causes a severe mental condition where people lose contact with reality, and see or hear things that are not really there (psychosis).
- Other names: hash, hashish, weed, pot, marijuana, ganja, dope, skunk, grass, puff.
- How is it taken? It is usually smoked. It can be mixed with tobacco and rolled up. This is called a spliff or a joint. It can also be mixed in with food or drinks.
- What does it do? It can make you feel happy and relaxed. It can also change the way you see or hear things.
- What are the harmful effects? It can make you feel very anxious or excessively worried or make you panic. It can also make you feel very suspicious of everybody (paranoid). It makes you more likely to develop a mental illness such as schizophrenia. Driving under the influence of cannabis makes you more likely to have an accident. It can make your brain work less well, so you don’t concentrate or remember things as well. It can be especially harmful for people with heart disease. It can make you less fertile if you are trying to have a baby.
- Other names: crack, coke, white, toot, pebbles, freebase.
- How is it taken? Cocaine comes as powder, freebase or crack cocaine. The powder is called coke and is usually sniffed up the nose. Freebase and crack cocaine are usually smoked through a pipe or tube. All forms can be turned into a liquid and injected.
- What does it do? It makes people feel super-confident, and alert. It reduces hunger pangs. After a big high, there follows a “come-down” or low.
- What are the harmful effects? People can do dangerous things when they feel more confident than they should. It can damage the inside of your nose. It makes the heart beat faster, and can sometimes cause very high blood pressure or heart attacks. It can cause mental illnesses such as depression, anxiety and panic disorder. There are risks from infected needles. Cocaine can become very addictive, and people who use it regularly crave more. It can cause death in overdose.
- Other names: E, crystal, dolphins, Superman, pills, mitsubishis, MDMA, Mandy, brownies.
- How is it taken? Ecstasy is usually swallowed as a pill.
- What does it do? It makes you feel high and happy and full of energy. It can make colours and sounds more intense. It can give you feelings of love and affection towards people around you for a short time. It is often used by people who go clubbing, so they have the energy to carry on late into the night. The effects last for several hours.
- What are the harmful effects? Ecstasy pills are often not pure, so the effects can be unpredictable, depending on what they are mixed with. The after effect, or “comedown”, can make you feel very low. It can cause depression, anxiety and memory problems. Sometimes it can cause problems with your immune system, heart, kidneys or liver. It can cause death.
- Other names: H, smack, skag, gear, brown.
- How is it taken? Heroin is usually dissolved into a liquid, then injected. It can also be smoked or snorted.
- What does it do? Heroin is made from the opium poppy. In its form for medical use, it is called diamorphine, and is used as a very strong painkiller. It makes you feel calm, happy and relaxed.
- What are the harmful effects? Heroin is extremely addictive, and once people are hooked it is very difficult to stop using it. When people overdose on it, they can stop breathing, and lose consciousness or die. Using infected needles to inject heroin can cause the spread of hepatitis or HIV. It can damage the blood vessels.
- Other names: K, vitamin K, super K, special K, green, donkey dust.
- How is it taken? It can be swallowed, snorted or injected.
- What does it do? It can make you feel very relaxed. It is a very strong painkiller. It can make you feel as though you are somewhere else rather than in your body. It can give you hallucinations, and affect the way you see time and space. This effect is called a “trip”, and a trip can be a good or a bad one.
- What are the harmful effects? It can affect your heart or blood pressure. It can make you confused and frightened. It can make you feel sick. It can affect your memory. It can damage your bladder and make you feel like you need to pee more often and urgently. This is called ‘Ketamine bladder syndrome’. You can also injure yourself because you don’t feel pain. It can damage your veins, and sharing infected needles puts you at risk of hepatitis and HIV.
- Other names: LSD stands for its chemical name, lysergic acid diethylamide. It is also commonly called acid. Other terms include blotter, tripper, flash, stars, rainbows, paper mushrooms.
- How is it taken? It is swallowed as a tablet or drops of liquid.
- What does it do? Like ketamine, LSD causes good or bad trips. A good trip can make you feel relaxed and happy. A bad trip can make you feel frightened and make you panic. It can make you see things that aren’t there (hallucinate) and these can be good things or bad things.
- What are the harmful effects? It can make you frightened and confused. Sometimes you can get “flashbacks” when you relive the same experience again. People can be more likely to self-harm when they have a bad trip.
- Other names: shrooms, mushies, magics, philosopher’s stone.
- How is it taken? Magic mushrooms grow wild in the UK. The two types are liberty caps and fly agaric. They are eaten raw, or dried and used in drinks.
- What does it do? Magic mushrooms can also give you good or bad trips. A good trip makes you feel happy, chilled out and confident. A bad trip can be frightening. Some people find magic mushrooms make them more imaginative or creative or sensitive, or they have a feeling of spiritual enlightenment.
- What are the harmful effects? They can make you feel sick or give you tummy ache or diarrhoea. You can feel very frightened or disorientated. You can get flashbacks later. You might put yourself in danger when you feel disconnected from reality.
- Other names: yaba, glass, meth, crank. The crystal form is called crystal meth or ice. Methamphetamines are a stronger form of amphetamine. 4-Methylamfetamine is another strong form of amphetamine, also called ket phet or phet ket.
- How is it taken? Methamphetamines can be swallowed, snorted, injected or smoked. The crystal form is the strongest and most addictive.
- What does it do? It causes a strong “high”, which lasts for 4-12 hours (longer than crack cocaine) followed by a severe “comedown”. It may make you feel full of energy and awake. It may make you feel more aroused. It may make you less hungry.
- What are the harmful effects? It can make you feel agitated, jittery, anxious, suspicious, or aggressive. It increases heart rate and blood pressure, and makes you more likely to have a heart attack. It reduces your inhibitions, and makes you more likely to take risks you would not usually take – for example, having sex with strangers. It can cause severe psychiatric illness, or psychosis. The effect of this can be homicidal or suicidal thoughts or behavior. Overdose can result in death. It is very addictive.
Volatile substances – gases, glues and aerosols
- What substances are abused? Aerosols (such as deodorants, air freshener, hairspray), nail polish or nail polish remover, glue, paint remover, shoe polish, petrol, cigarette lighter fluid. It can be called sniffing, tooting, huffing, dusting, or buzzing gas.
- How are they taken? The substance is breathed in or, if in a spray form, can be sprayed to the back of the mouth.
- What do they do? They may make you feel happy and excited. You may feel giggly and high. It is a very short-lived effect.
- What are the harmful effects? They can cause dizziness, being sick (vomiting) or blackouts. They can cause hallucinations. You may get sore around the mouth or nose. They can give you headaches. They can give you problems sleeping and make you feel tired. These substances can be very dangerous, and sometimes people die instantly when they use them. They can make your heart stop. Sometimes the gas at the back of your throat can make it swell up so you can’t breathe.