Recreational drug use  

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The Smoker (ca. 1654 - 1662) by Joos van Craesbeeck
The Smoker (ca. 1654 - 1662) by Joos van Craesbeeck

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Recreational drug use is the use of a drug with the intention of creating or enhancing recreational experience. Drugs commonly considered capable of recreational use include alcohol, nicotine and caffeine.



The concept of "recreational drug use" is that a person can use drugs recreationally or otherwise with reduced or eliminated risk of negatively affecting other aspects of one's life or other people's lives. Advocates of this philosophy point to the many well-known artists and intellectuals who have used drugs, experimentally or otherwise, with few detrimental effects on their lives. Responsible drug use becomes drug abuse only when the use of the substance significantly interferes with the user's daily life.

Responsible drug use advocates that users should not take drugs at the same time as activities such as driving, swimming, operating machinery, or other activities that are unsafe without a sober state. Responsible drug use is emphasized as a primary prevention technique in harm-reduction drug policies. Harm-reduction policies were popularized in the late 1980s, although they began in the 1970s counter-culture where users were distributed cartoons explaining responsible drug use and consequences of irresponsible drug use. Another issue is that the illegality of drugs in itself may also cause social and economic consequences for those using them — the drugs may be "cut" with adulturants and the purity varies wildly, making overdoses more likely — and legal regulation of drug production and distribution would alleviate these and other dangers of illegal drug use. Harm reduction seeks to minimize the harm that can occur through the use of various drugs, whether legal (e.g., alcohol and nicotine), or illegal (e.g., heroin and cocaine). For example, people who inject illicit drugs can minimize harm to both themselves and members of the community through proper injecting technique, using new needles and syringes each time, and proper disposal of all injecting equipment.

Types of drugs

List of recreational drugs

Common drugs

The drugs most popular for recreational use worldwide are:

Other popular drugs are:

Legally available opioids are sometimes combined with other drugs such as NSAIDs (e.g. ibuprofen, aspirin), paracetamol, antihistamine, expectorant, homatropine/atropine. The purpose of the non-controlled drugs in combination is often twofold: 1) To provide increased analgesia via drug synergy. 2) To limit the intake of opioid by causing unpleasant and often unsafe side effects at higher-than-prescribed doses. See also: Hydrocodone/paracetamol (Vicodin).

Inhaling nitrous oxide from tanks used in automotive systems is unsafe, because the toxic gas sulfur dioxide is mixed in around 100 ppm, specifically to discourage recreational use.


There have been many movements calling for the legalization of recreational drugs (the most notable one being cannabis). Examples of such movements are the Worldwide Marijuana March, Hemp Day, and 4/20. Several movements that call for the legalization of drugs, not from an argument of their safety but rather from an argument that this issue should be considered a medical one and not a criminal one, also exist, primarily in North America. One such organization is the Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP). The British drug reform group Transform believes that taxation and regulation of drugs by the government would significantly decrease crime while increasing the health of drug users and addicts. Impact varies from country to country, depending on its legality. Also, there are many anti-drug movements, specifically Straight Edge and The Partnership For A Drug Free America, calling for the continuation of its current illegality.

In a blog article titled "Drugs and the meaning of life", author and neuroscientist Sam Harris argues "The fact that we pointlessly ruin the lives of nonviolent drug users by incarcerating them, at enormous expense, constitutes one of the great moral failures of our time." He says that he dreads the thought of his daughter's ever taking an interest in crack cocaine. On the other hand, he feels that she might be missing out if she never tried psychedelics like psilocybin. Harris also laments that a drug's legality, social status, and risks of harm rarely correlate reasonably.

Risks and harm

The amount and type of risks that come with recreational drug use vary widely with the drug. There are many factors in the environment and the user that interact with each drug differently. Overall, some studies suggest that alcohol is one of the most dangerous of all recreational drugs; only heroin, crack cocaine, and methamphetamines are judged to be more harmful. Experts in the UK offer that some drugs that may be causing less harm, to fewer users (although they are also used less frequently in the first place) include Cannabis, psilocybin mushrooms, LSD, and ecstasy. These drugs are not without their own particular risks.

See also


addiction - consciousness - medicine - mind - prohibition - psychedelic - The Great Binge
By medium: drugs in literature, drugs in music, drugs in film

Further reading

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Recreational drug use" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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