Recreational Drug Use vs Addiction | What is Drug Dependency

Recreational Drug Use Vs Addiction

Using Drugs Recreational

They are classified as a chemical substances that people will take for enjoyment rather than for medical purposes as they are intended. Many tend to refer to the use of drugs that are not intended of medical reasons as recreational drug use. Amphetamines, marijuana, alcohol, and cocaine are just some examples of recreational drugs that are used. They start out as a pleasurable pastime or a means to making someone feel better about their life. It can lead to many problems, however. Addiction, health, and crime are just some of the fallouts to using drugs recreationally. Let’s investigate more on recreational drug use vs addiction, and where to draw the line.

Recreational is a term that is used to describe how often a drug is used and the impact it has on a person’s life. It is often casual and viewed as a harmless pastime. And while few issues come up when someone uses a drug recreationally but there are still problems that can arise. The main risks would include risky behaviors like increased risks of

  • Violence
  • Rape
  • Dinking and driving
  • Random accidents
  • Alcohol poisoning

So what is the big difference between recreational drugs usage vs addiction? If you sample cocaine, for example, does that automatically make you an addiction? If you drink one glass of wine about five days a week, are you addicted? Know main differences between recreational drug users and those who are battling with addiction.

Recreational Drugs Vs Addiction

Recreational Drug Use Vs Addiction: What’s the Difference?

Recreational drugs can incorporate substances that are frequently abused. These substances may cause addiction in many and some even have an affinity for causing life issues like family problems, relationship troubles, financial woes, professional deterioration, and much more. But what is the real difference between recreational drug use vs addiction? Is there a line that prevents someone from crossing over into a point of no return?

It’s important to understand, first, that addiction is a relapsing disease. According to the American Psychiatric Association, addiction ─ also formally known as substance abuse disorder ─ is a complex condition in which there is uncontrolled use of a substance despite harmful consequence. People with SUD often exhibit an intense focus on using a certain substance such as alcohol, tobacco, or illicit drugs. Often, an SUD will present problematic behavior outside just drug use like violence, health deterioration, and relationship issues.

The key here is that addiction impacts an individuals brain and the brains inherent functionality. People battling with addiction will often undergo changes in the brain’s struction and overall function causing any of the following symptoms:

  • Intense cravings
  • Changes in personality
  • Abnormal movements
  • Other distinct behaviors

Scientists report that being impulsive has been shown to create a bridge between recreational drug use to compulsive drug use. The outcome can cause a drug habit or addiction. This can lead to the person needing to go through drug detox and rehabilitation at an inpatient treatment program. The line between recreational drug use vs addiction is often blurred. While everyone interacts with drugs differently, repeated substance use can begin to cause changes in the brain. These changes can last long after the immediate effects of the substance wears off.

Intoxication to recreational drugs may illicit feelings of:

  • Pleasure
  • Euphoria
  • Calmness
  • Increased perception and sense
  • Other positive feelings

Each symptom may be different and may vary in degree. Different substances will cause different reactions, as well as, many will often change depending on how much of the substance is consumed. What’s important to understand is that recreational drug use can increase the likelihood of addiction, especially if recreational use becomes more habitual. Over time, a person who was innocently using a substance may feel more drawn to it and more exposed to drug dependency.

Using Prescription Recreationally

List of Recreational Drugs


The most popular recreational drug is alcohol. While some might question if alcohol is a drug at all, the answer is yes. It is considered a drug of dependence. A recent survey conducted said that close to 140 million people recreationally use alcohol. Of those, there are 22 million that have a dependency on alcohol. Recreational by definition describes an enjoyable past time that you do from time to time.

People drink while they’re not working. They drink with friends or on special occasions. They don’t have  a habit of drinking or build a life around alcohol. They can live with or without drinking. Dependence can occur based on genetic makeup or a means of numbing oneself after prolonged anxiety. On the other end of the spectrum, alcohol addiction takes over someone’s life. A National Geographic video sheds some light on just how debilitating alcoholism is.

Dependency means to need something. You can develop a need for alcohol from drinking regularly at which point the body and mind require it to function. It helps someone with a dependency to feel more comfortable in their own skin during times of discomfort. This can include changes in their routine, withdrawal symptoms, peer pressure, stressful times, and problems in their relationships or at work. Alcohol can ruin a person’s life when addiction sets in. This disease can cause risky behaviors due to a change in the way the brain functions.

There are signs of the development of dependency that can be seen when a person doesn’t have alcohol in their system. Most commonly, they include:

  • Irritation.
  • Cramps.
  • Depression.
  • Anxiety.
  • Sweating.
  • Trembling, body shaking.
  • Headaches.

There have been many people in the limelight that have been exposed for having an addiction to alcohol. Lindsay Lohan is one of them with a story to tell about her battle with alcohol. She was a Disney child star gone adult star. She started recreational drug use at a young age with the fast based life she head. She said that alcohol was the gateway drug for her and that she would combine it with cocaine. She admitted herself into rehab a few due to substance addiction.


LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide) is a hallucinogen that causes someone to trip out. They may see things that aren’t there. The time a person is under the influence of the drug, which is usually from 1 – 8 hours, is known as a “trip.” The drug peaks for 2-4 hours so if you’re stuck in a bad trip, it lasts for a substantial amount of time. When a person is having a good trip, they feel relaxed and happy. A bad trip can bring on psychosis; you might feel frightened or panic. The hallucinations can be good or bad.

There are tablets or drop of liquid on a piece of paper and costs about $10 for a hit. Street names include: tipper, stars, paper mushrooms, acid, and blotter. The hits are between 50-100 micrograms of the drug. Higher doses have been taken and can cause more intense hallucinations.

LSD is one of the recreational drugs on this list that has shown little signs of being addictive. There are risks however. People on a bad trip may harm themselves. Also, mixing hallucinogens with other drugs like alcohol can increase the risk of a bad trip. Physical and psychological problems may persist as well.

People that use LSD chronically will not have physical withdrawal symptoms. There is also not a lot of evidence supporting any long-lasting effects of LSD. Some users may experience long-term psychiatric effects based on a variety of things such as previous mental illness. Hallucinations and other visuals can occur after the drug has left the body. This is known as flashbacks or Hallucinogen Persisting Perception Disorder. There is no treatment for the condition and causes are unknown.


Cocaine is the source of many Hollywood movie storylines. It’s also caused the likes of Demi Lovato and Drew Barrymore to admit themselves in rehab. Addiction treatment for cocaine abuse helped them move forward with their lives and become role models. The battle wasn’t easy though, it’s one of the recreational drugs that can hook you in from the first time you use it.

Cocaine is an illicit drug known on the streets as crack, coke, pebbles, and freebase. Even when used casually, cocaine can cause major health problems. The powder is cocaine and is most commonly snorted. Freebase and crack cocaine are commonly smoked through a pipe. Cocaine and crack can also be turned into a liquid for injection. Cocaine makes users feel amazing. They are alert, confident, and excited. The problem is the comedown which occurs within an hour. This is why people will take multiple hits in a night. Tolerance occurs quickly.

When used recreationally, it can bring on mental illness like depression, anxiety, or panic disorders. Blood pressure spikes and there is a risk of heart attacks as the heart beats very quickly. Cocaine is highly addictive and can cause death by overdose. It causes high levels of dopamine to be released which is what causes the pleasure and euphoria. A user can show symptoms of addiction after using cocaine a handful of times.

As someone transitions from recreational drug use of cocaine to addiction, it is more behavioral symptoms. A user will want to use it regardless of the consequences. This is a sure sign of addiction. While it doesn’t cause the same physical addiction as other substances, the short duration of it’s effects and the big crash causes a craving right away. The bridge between recreational use and addiction with cocaine is a short one.


Ecstasy is a psychoactive drug that alters a person’s feelings. Energy increases, allowing users to stay up all night and dance. The drug gives people a feeling of love, empathy, and pleasure. The effects occur quickly once ingested. Recreationally, ecstasy is risky. Every time someone uses, they are gambling with their life. There is no way to monitor the potency of any given pill or capsule. They may be impure so effects of each hit will be unknown. Many users have died from taking ecstasy. Street names include E, MDMA, and crystal.

There are also adverse effects that occur during the trip and with your long-term health. A user may experience:

  • Paranoia.
  • Memory loss.
  • Insomnia.
  • Blurred vision.
  • Increase of heart rate.
  • Immune system can be compromised.
  • Depression and anxiety.
  • Greater potential for risky behavior.

Deaths have occurred from a dangerous rise in body heat and dehydration. After the drug wears off, people will be exhausted and usually feel a sense of depression. Ecstasy boosts serotonin and dopamine levels. When it leaves the system, those levels fall and the brain is temporarily unable to produce levels of the chemicals that make us feel happy and energetic.

Addiction to ecstasy is possible. Physical dependency isn’t common but it’s the psychological addiction that is. Research has found that it is possible to experience symptoms of addiction when recreational use gets out of control. While they may be addicted, they aren’t dependent on ecstasy. Addiction is the behavioral pattern that comes with using the drug regardless of risks and health problems. Dependency is when the body adapts due to the presence of the drug in the body. Withdrawal can cause anxiety, confusion, and depression. A physical dependence on ecstasy is rare even when someone uses it chronically.


There are varieties of prescriptions that derive from the benzodiazepine family. Diazepam (valium) and Lorazepam (Ativan), Clonazepam (Klonopin) are some examples. They are used for a variety of health issues and are also a drug that is highly abused.

As explained in this short video, GABA receptors are affected by benzodiazepines. The GABA receptors are the part of the brain that allows us to relax. It eases anxiety due to it’s sedating effect. The family of benzos are used to treat psychiatric disorders and anxiety. When used recreationally, they are often mixed with alcohol. This is dangerous because the sedation is greater and can cause a person to stop breathing.

Benzodiazepines are commonly prescribed to relax people. There is short and long lasting versions. The likes of drugs like Rohypnol are short lasting and are used as a sleeping pill. For people with severe anxiety, these drugs are useful because they begin to work within an hour usually. Benzos can be used as a muscles relaxant also. It is used to treat alcohol withdrawal, preventing delirium tremens.

Benzodiazepines are highly addictive and doctors will usually only prescribe them for up to four weeks. Tolerance develops quickly even when used properly. When used recreationally, the abuse of benzodiazepines can cause addiction much quicker. Users have said they will use it with other recreational drugs. It helps people come down from drugs like cocaine and acid.

Addiction to benzos occur due to surges of dopamine that are caused in the brain. The result is a change of the natural dopamine-producing cells. When abused enough, benzos will cause a deterioration of the cells that help a person function and maintain a sense of well-being. The temporary surges of dopamine cause great pleasure but it’s also something the brain becomes accustomed to. With benzo addiction, you need the drugs to feel happy. When used on occasion, users will enjoy the relaxation of the drug but won’t require it to function.

When someone is addicted to benzodiazepines, it’s actually dangerous to stop using them cold turkey. The brain doesn’t function properly and can cause seizures. Confusion, hallucination, and convulsions are also a risk. On top of that, there may be a sense of anxiety and all the original fears that existed before one started taking the drug.


Amphetamines are a stimulant that gives people more energy. Adderall contains amphetamines and is  used to help those with ADHD. It is also highly abused as a recreational drug. It helps party goers stay up late with the energy to dance without fatigue. It can cause a jittery effect in people and anxiety can set in. They can even cause a mental condition (psychosis) where a user isn’t coherent. They are literally no longer ‘there’.

Street names include speed, sulph, and dexies. As a powder form, it is often snorted or wrapped up in a piece of paper and swallowed. Some might inject it or just put it in their drink. They have a high potential for abuse and dependency. Users become drawn in by the sense of euphoria and their increased energy levels.

When used recreationally, amphetamine highs make a person feel excited and energetic. When abused chronically, it can quickly lead to a tolerance. It will then take more of the drug to experience the same effects. Snorting or injecting amphetamines will produce stronger effects, which put users at higher risk of overdose and addiction.

When used recreationally, a person will get the high and experience the effects. They can take it or leave it. If they overuse it, it can quickly cause a dependency. There is an intense physical and psychological craving with amphetamine addiction. This is because the body’s chemicals adjust to having the drug in the body. When it isn’t present, the body doesn’t work optimally. Cravings can last for weeks while depression can last for months.

A recreational user will feel a ‘down bake’ when the drug wears off. They may even experience slight depression. An addict will be convinced that they’re unable to function without it. They see normal life as depressing in comparison to how they feel when they’re high. They become psychologically dependent on the drug because it prevents them from feeling uncomfortable emotions.


Methamphetamines are a stronger form of amphetamines. They create a long lasting high that is intense. Equally as intense is the come down which is what can cause recreational users to become addicts. The high lasts from 4-12 hours. Users feel energetically charged and fully awake. Meth is an appetite suppressant, making users feel less hungry.

The crystal form of the drug is called crystal meth or ice. On the streets, it’s called yaba, meth, crank, or glass. There is also 4-methylamphateamine which is nicknamed Ket Phet.

National Geographic did a documentary on methamphetamines, shedding light on what this drug did to people’s lives. Crystal meth is known to cause arousal in users which leads to risky sexual behavior. Meth makes people feel jittery, anxious, agitation, and suspiciousness. This can lead to aggressiveness, which can lead to violence. It can cause extreme psychosis or depression. Some may even experience suicidal thoughts.

Like amphetamines, a recreational drug user will feel the withdrawal symptoms of depression and exhaustion. It will usually only last for a day or two. When someone develops an addiction however, withdrawal symptoms are far more intense and last much longer.


Cannabis is one of the recreational drugs that aren’t traditionally considered to cause a full blown addiction. Marijuana has become legalized for it’s many medicinal qualities. The legalization has actually reduced the percentage of recreational users. This is what studies have shown but it’s hard to speculate what the long term results will be. You can take a marijuana quiz to gauge your dependence on it.

When someone becomes dependent on it, they will smoke chronically. Many people will wake up and smoke a joint when they get out of bed. They say that it makes them feel normal. They will often experience a constant feeling of paranoia or anxiety when using it all the time. It can put a user at greater risk of developing mental illnesses like schizophrenia and mood disorders like clinical depression. They may also disassociate from people they care about. The brain doesn’t function properly and it’s challenging to concentrate and remember things. The longer and more frequent someone uses cannabis, the more these symptoms become apparent.

The body and mind become tolerant to cannabis in the system. This can create withdrawal symptoms when the person no longer has it in their system. They may become anxious and irritable. They also have problems sleeping and may experience gastrointestinal issues. It’s been found that users have less dopamine production on their own as well. This also suggests that addiction is possible. People commonly admit themselves into drug rehabilitation to help them detox and recover from Cannabis.

Recreational Drug Use Vs Addiction


There are many different kinds of opioids that are being used as recreational drugs. Some are illicit like heroin and others are prescription painkillers like Percocet. All opioids have the same effect on the brain. Heroin is the most potent and works quickly with a shorter half life. The thing is, if someone has developed an addiction to an opioid painkiller, they often make no distinction with heroin and their pills for pain. They become addicted and so they make no distinction. Any opioid addiction should be treated properly with detox and rehabilitation.

Here are some of the various types of opioids that are being used recreationally:


Brands include Percocet and OxyContin. It is prescribed for the relief of moderate to severe pain. It is combined with other drugs but there’s also a prescription medication that is strictly oxycodone. This is what is known as hillbilly heroin. OxyContin was once widely prescribed until it became apparent that the drug was extremely addictive and was causing people to turn to heroin on the streets.


Morphine is highly addictive and it is rare that recreational users will remain that way for long. It is extremely addictive as the brain becomes accustomed to the increase of dopamine and serotonin in the brain. Recreationally, a person will experience “coming down” and will feel depressed for a few days. Addiction is much more challenging. Withdrawal symptoms become too much to deal with and will usually result in the need for professional detox.

Morphine has street names such as H, smack, brown, and skag. It is the primary chemical component in opium. Using it can create a high that people will like if they’re trying to numb physical or emotional pain. The body will begin to develop a tolerance if a person uses it recreationally at a frequent rate. Users will need to take more in order to get the same high they once did. Reinforced brain patterns will then start to develop. Addiction has set in when a user begins to obsess about when they can use again. They will stop being responsible and their character will begin to change. Risky behaviors may ensure such as committing crimes to obtain morphine.


Heroin has become a household drug sadly. As it’s so available and cheap, the face of users have changed. Recreational use of heroin can become addiction just one time of using. It is dangerously addictive. The medical form of heroin is known as diamorphine. It is an extremely powerful painkiller that is usually reserved for the terminally ill.

Heroin addiction is one of the worst kind of addictions. The body and mind deteriorates quickly and the user will do anything to get the drug. As it’s often injected, users are susceptible to getting hepatitis or HIV.


Methadone is a legal opioid that is used as replacement therapy for dependency to other opioids. It is also a painkiller. The problem is methadone can become a problem for recovery from addiction because it too is addictive. Many times, opioids are interchangeable. What should be a solution becomes the problem and an addiction to a different type of opioid morphs. This is the case with methadone. When administered properly, it can be helpful but using it recreationally can cause dependence and addiction.

Prescriptions for methadone have risen over the past few years as it’s a popular painkiller. This is causing an effect where more people have access to it as a recreational drug. For those who use it recreationally, they will take higher doses of methadone. This is risky as it creates a higher chance or addiction or overdose. As a recreational drug, it will be administered in ways that make it work differently. Instead of taking a pill, users may crush it into a powder and inject, smoke or snort it.

Methadone addiction puts users more at risk for overdose. The Center for Disease Control says that over 30% of overdose deaths caused by prescription painkillers could be attributed to methadone. It is estimated that an average of 5,000 people in the US die from methadone overdose every year.

Addiction to any opioid is a severe psychiatric disorder. Methadone binds to receptors in the brain the same way heroin does. It stays in the body for up to three days and blocks euphoric effects of stronger opiate drugs. There is a risk of physical dependence where withdrawing causes uncomfortable symptoms.

Addiction Defined

The psychologists have a book called the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, or DSM-5 for short, which lists all the criteria for diagnosing someone that is officially “addicted”.

The problem with this way of determining whether or not you are addicted is that you will have to wait a whole year to be diagnosed. The criteria states you have the ‘requirements’ for 12 months before you are addicted.

However, some drugs such as amphetamine and cocaine can make you instantly addicted so the damage accumulates over those 12 months.

The DSM Criteria for Addiction includes:

  • the buildup of tolerance to the drug
  • the presence of withdrawal symptoms when you stop using the drug
  • You have to take greater and greater amounts of the drug.
  • You try to stop using but can’t without help from an addiction treatment center.
  • You spend a good amount of time trying to get more drugs and look for situations to use it.
  • You stop spending time with non-user friends.
  • You keep using the drug even though you know it’s causing you physical and psychological problems.

AspenRidge: Providing Help for Recreational Users & Substance Use Disorders

Recreational drug use is common. There are many drugs that people use for various reasons. That usage can become addiction. Some drugs like heroin can be a one-time only usage that will cause addiction. Others take more time. While using drugs for recreational purposes may seem harmless, it is what can lead to addiction. An addiction is not just something you can manage on your own. It’s a disease that requires specific measures for recovery to happen successfully. If you need addiction resources in Colorado, give AspenRidge Recovery a call directly at 855-281-5588.

If you have been a recreational drug user of the above list or have become addicted to a drug, we would like to hear your story. If you need help with drug abuse or addiction, please call AspenRidge Recovery today.