Addiction Vs. Recreational Drug Use
Many people use the terms “recreational drug use” and “drug addiction” interchangeably.
While both conditions can cause serious health problems, they have some important differences. In particular, recreational drug use is a behavior, while drug addiction is a disease.
What Is Recreational Drug Use?
Recreational drug use occurs when a person uses a psychoactive drug to feel pleasure, reduce pain or stress, boost physical or mental performance, or fit in.
A recreational drug user may use illegal or legal drugs.
The most commonly used illegal drugs (also called illicit drugs) include:
- cannabis (marijuana)
- mephedrone (bath salts)
- methamphetamine (meth)
- MDMA (molly or ecstasy)
- psilocybin (magic mushrooms or shrooms)
The most commonly used legal drugs are alcohol, nicotine, and caffeine.
In addition, some people recreationally use medical drugs (prescription or over-the-counter medications) by taking them in a manner not recommended by a health care provider (a form of drug abuse).
For example, they might:
- take a larger dose than recommended
- use a drug more frequently than recommended
- mix a drug with alcohol or other substances
- crush pills and snort them
- use a prescription drug without a prescription
The most commonly misused medical drugs include:
- opioid painkillers (also called opiates), such as oxycodone (OxyContin), hydrocodone (Vicodin), and methadone (Methadose)
- stimulants, such as amphetamine (Adderall), lisdexamfetamine (Vyvanse), and methylphenidate (Ritalin)
- benzodiazepines, such as alprazolam (Xanax), clonazepam (Klonopin), and diazepam (Valium)
- barbiturates (also called sedative-hypnotics), such as phenobarbital (Luminal), secobarbital (Seconal), and pentobarbital (Nembutal)
- ketamine, a hallucinogen (psychedelic) that’s sometimes prescribed to treat depression
- over-the-counter painkillers such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) and ibuprofen (Advil)
- over-the-counter cough medicines such as dextromethorphan (Robitussin)
Risks Of Recreational Drug Use
Recreational drug use raises your risk of various health problems. The specific problems depending on the drug and how often you use it. However, some of the most common health conditions linked to recreational drugs include:
- heart, lung, or liver disease
- heart attack or stroke
- psychosis (a feeling of disconnection from reality)
- infectious diseases (such as HIV and hepatitis) from sharing drug
- needles or having unprotected sex while intoxicated
- memory loss
People who use recreational drugs also face the risk of overdose. Common signs of a drug overdose include:
- change in pupil size
- chest pain
- changes in heart rate, breathing rate, blood pressure, or body
- pale, bluish, or clammy skin
- nausea and vomiting
- loss of consciousness
If you or someone you know experiences these symptoms, seek medical help immediately. When left untreated, an overdose may be fatal.
Finally, recreational use of drugs often leads to drug addiction.
What Is Drug Addiction?
The National Institute on Drug Abuse defines drug addiction (also called substance use disorder) as a complex brain disorder and mental illness. It makes you feel unable to stop using a drug despite negative consequences, such as damaged relationships, job loss, or health problems.
A person can become addicted to any psychoactive drug. Different types of addictions have different names. For example, an addiction to alcohol is called alcohol use disorder, while an addiction to marijuana is called marijuana use disorder.
Drug Addiction Risk Factors
Some people are more likely to develop drug addictions than others. You face a higher risk of addiction if you:
- start using drugs as a teenager or young adult
- have a family history of addiction
- have a mental health condition
- have experienced trauma
Signs Of Drug Addiction
The most well-known signs of drug addiction are tolerance and physical dependence.
Tolerance means that over time, your body becomes used to a drug. You’ll then need increasingly larger or more frequent amounts of the drug to feel the desired effects.
Physical dependence means that your body can’t function normally without a drug. If you stop taking it, you may experience withdrawal symptoms such as:
- nausea and vomiting
- hallucinations (seeing, hearing, or feeling things that aren’t there)
Other signs of drug addiction include:
- intense drug cravings
- mood swings
- loss of interest in activities once enjoyed
- withdrawal from friends and family members
- sudden changes in energy, sleeping patterns, appetite, or weight
- frequently borrowing or steal money
- frequently getting in trouble with the law
Risks Of Drug Addiction
Like recreational drug use, drug addiction can cause serious health issues, including cancer, organ damage, and memory loss.
In general, people with drug addictions face a much higher risk of health issues than people who use recreational drugs but don’t have addictions. That’s because addiction often involves near-constant drug use.
In addition, when you struggle with addiction, you’ll likely find it difficult to think of anything besides getting and using drugs. You may then have trouble maintaining relationships or succeeding at work or school.
Fortunately, addiction is treatable. Most people need professional treatment at a rehab center.
To learn about treatment options for addiction and substance abuse, please contact us today. We offer a variety of recovery-focused services, including behavioral therapy, support groups, and mental health counseling.
Recovering Champions Editorial Team
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This page does not provide medical advice.