What are the Effects of Recreational Drug Use

Many people think that recreational drug use isn’t a big deal. They might feel like they’re in control of their casual drug use, and they don’t worry about it escalating into addiction. But addiction isn’t the only potential consequence of occasional substance use. Recreational drug use affects your brain, health, social life and finances. It can negatively impact almost every area of your life.

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What Is Recreational Drug Use?

The same drugs that someone can become addicted to can also be used recreationally. Recreational drug use means that someone consumes substances for non-medical reasons. Often, individuals use drugs recreationally to:

  • Experience pleasure – Substances affect the reward centers of your brain, boosting your ability to feel pleasurable mental and physical sensations.
  • Enhance their mood – Drugs release mood-enhancing chemicals, which can make you feel more positive and less stressed or anxious.
  • Socialize or fit in with others – Many drugs reduce your inhibitions, enhancing your confidence in social situations.
  • Cope with negative emotions – Recreational drug use can calm you down, slow your thinking and help you escape from the stressors of life.

About 50% of people over the age of 11 have used illicit drugs in their lifetime. The most commonly used recreational drugs include the following:

  • Marijuana
  • Hallucinogens
  • Cocaine
  • Inhalants
  • Methamphetamine
  • Prescription drugs

People who take part in recreational drug use see themselves differently than chronic users. They usually believe that the benefits outweigh the risks of taking the drug. For example, people who drink at the bar with friends but use a designated driver and have no cravings to use in other situations can often manage their substance use.

It makes sense that attitudes about drug use follow this pattern. Recreational drug use is normalized in many cultures. However, there is a stigma surrounding heavy substance use. Therefore, there is a fine line between using drugs recreationally and having a drug problem. Many people convince themselves that they can manage their drug use when they’re actually dealing with an addiction.

Effects of Recreational Drug Use

When people take controlled substances without the supervision of a doctor, they may just be experimenting with different ways to get high. They’re often seeking out euphoria or an enjoyable experience.

The immediate effects of most recreational drugs are psychoactive or intoxicating in nature. Every drug elicits distinct reactions in the brain and body. Some are pleasurable, but others are undesirable.

Effects of Stimulants

Some common effects of stimulants include:

  • Increased energy
  • Elevated heart rate and respiration
  • Insomnia
  • Restlessness
  • Irritability
  • Panic attacks
  • Heart attack or stroke

Effects of Marijuana

People who use marijuana may experience the following effects:

  • Delayed reaction times
  • Cognition problems
  • Trouble with coordination
  • Dizziness
  • Anxiety
  • Increased heart rate

Effects of Painkillers and Opiates

Using painkillers without a prescription or doctor’s supervision can lead to the following consequences:

  • Pain relief
  • Fatigue and drowsiness
  • Lack of coordination
  • Slowed vital signs
  • Abdominal and digestive problems

Impaired Judgment

Most intoxicating drugs impair your judgment. When you’re high, you might make impulsive decisions. This might put you or your loved ones in danger.

Although troubles with the law, a boss or finances are often associated with long-term addiction, they can plague people who engage in recreational drug use. It only takes one time to get arrested for possession or lose your savings because of a bad choice.


One of the most somber effects of recreational drug use is an increased risk of dying from an overdose. You can’t always guarantee the purity or dosage when you purchase drugs illicitly. You may not know how much is right for you, or you may have existing health problems that interact with the substance.


Although many people use recreational drugs to increase joyful feelings, some use substances to self-medicate. Instead of seeing a doctor for pain, they may use pills that weren’t prescribed to them. They might use alcohol or benzodiazepines to combat distressing psychological symptoms. As an alternative to dealing with difficult emotions, they may take part in recreational drug use to numb themselves.

It’s not always easy to identify that you’re self-medicating. We’re so used to the cliche of pouring a drink after a long day that we may not realize that we’re really using alcohol to treat stress. If you don’t enjoy social gatherings when you’re sober, you might be using substances to treat social anxiety.

This is a slippery slope that increases the risk of becoming addicted. If you depend on an external chemical to reduce physical, emotional and psychological distress, you might have trouble functioning without the drug.

Increase Your Risk for Addiction

Not all drugs are dangerous, especially when they’re taken as instructed by a healthcare professional. If you’re in so much pain that your body can’t produce enough natural chemicals to provide relief, opioids can help you get through it. Psychedelics are being studied as treatments for mental health disorders.

Many drugs produce chemical reactions that alter part of your body’s neural network to produce positive effects. However, they can also rewire your reward pathways to continue to rely on chemicals to feel good.

Every drug has a different way of reacting with the central nervous system. However, recreational drug users may increase their risk of addiction by the manner in which they take the drug. The faster and more frequently the chemical is delivered, the more likely the individual is to develop an addiction.

Furthermore, if you’re repeatedly seeking out external sources of enjoyment, you lose touch with your own capacity for self-motivation and self-regulation. The dopamine hit that is released when you access drugs as a source of pleasure tells you to go back to the easiest thing that could bring back that same level of relaxation, amusement or relief. That’s often the drug.

Get Help for Recreational Drug Use

If you’re not sure if you have a drug problem, feel free to get in touch with us at Burning Tree West. Our addiction treatment center understands how outside pressure can affect your recreational drug use. We are committed to providing the missing links to help you access recovery for good.

Get Help Now

Call our admissions specialists who can help you find the best treatment center for your needs. If you need help with drug abuse or addiction recovery, we can help you.

(888) 530-9424