Recreational Drug Use

Recreational drug use is the use of a psychoactive substance to alter your mental state. Some of these drugs are ones that many people indulge in regularly, such as caffeine, tobacco and alcohol and their use is considered socially acceptable in day to day life. However, the use of more serious psychoactive substances such as crack cocaine, cannabis and heroin among others, is illegal and strictly controlled. Drug misuse, whatever the substance, can be harmful in both the short term and the long term, and can lead to addiction and serious potentially life threatening health consequences.

Common drugs and dangers

Nearly all psychoactive drugs can be classified under one of three categories: stimulants, sedatives or ‘downers’, and hallucinogens. The NHS outline the effects and dangers of the most common of these drugs and offer support and advice on how to fight addiction.

Cannabis (hash, weed, grass, skunk, marijuana) is calming drug that falls under the sedative category. Made from the cannabis plant, it is drug that can be smoked in a ‘joint’ or a ‘spliff’ or drunk as a tea or even mixed in with food and eaten. Cannabis can make you feel relaxed and happy, but common side effects include severe lethargy, anxiety and paranoia.

It is a common misconception that cannabis is not an addictive substance, as it possible to become psychologically dependent on the drug over time. The use of cannabis has also been linked to mental health problems such as schizophrenia, and, when smoked, to various lung diseases.

Cocaine (coke, crack) in all its forms is a powerful stimulant designed to give the user energy and feelings of happiness and over confidence. Classified as a Class A drug, cocaine is particularly dangerous, as it is possible to die of an overdose from overstimulating the heart and nervous system.

The effects of the drug are short lived, meaning that more is taken, and the ‘comedown’ can cause severe feelings of depression, which can last for many days. It is for this reason that cocaine is a highly addictive substance and can cause very strong psychological dependence.

Ecstasy (MDMA, pills, crystal, E) is defined as a psychedelic stimulant drug that causes the user to feel alert, affectionate and chatty, making music and colours more intense and even causing hallucinations. The side effects include anxiety, paranoia and confusion, and its long-term use has been linked to memory problems, depression and anxiety.

It is possible to become psychologically dependent on this drug and to build up a tolerance to its effects, requiring more of the drug to get the same high.

Amphetamine (speed) is a stimulant drug and usually comes in the form of an off-white or pink powder. The use of these drugs (for there are many varieties) makes the user feel alert, confident and full of energy and the side effects include aggression, confusion, paranoia and even psychosis.

Taking amphetamines causes high blood pressure and can be dangerous for the heart. Injecting speed is highly dangerous and can result in death from an overdose.

Heroin (smack, diamorphine) is a highly addictive Class A drug that slows the body’s functions and can make the user numb to emotional and physical pain. Taking too much can lead to a coma or even death and it is common for users to suffer from depression. Coming off the drug is extremely unpleasant and it is essential that those addicted seek help and support.

Acid (LSD, magic mushrooms) refers to hallucinogenic drugs that cause the user to experience the world in a different intensified way. It is not uncommon to have a bad ‘trip’ and experience feelings of severe panic and paranoia while on the drug. Long term use has been linked to psychosis and mental health problems.

Getting help

The NHS offer a wide range of addiction services that can help you if you have a problem with drugs. By visiting your GP, you can assess the nature of your problems, choose the right sort of treatment and be referred to a specialist drug service.

If you aren’t comfortable talking to your GP many drug treatment services do accept self-referrals so you may also be able to approach them directly. You find information about your local drug treatment services on the Frank website, along with more information about drugs and addiction.

There are also many charities outside of the NHS that can offer you their help. These services can include rehab centres, outreach and reduction services, aftercare and housing and support services. If possible you should also seek the support of family and friends in addressing your drug problem.

Self-help groups

  • Narcotics Anonymous
  • Secular Organisations for Sobriety
  • SMART Recovery

Call FRANK anytime on 0300 123 6600 for more confidential advice.