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Recreational drug use is the use of a Drug (legal, controlled, or illegal) with the primary intention to alter the state of consciousness (through disruption of the CNS) in order to recreate positive emotions and feelings. The popular concept of this phenomena puts it closer to a social behaviour that many places around the world tolerate rather than to serious medical conditions such as self-medication. When a substance enters the user's body, it brings on a pleasurable intoxicating effect; in terms of psychoactive drugs, such as Cannabis or MDMA, this is often referred to as a "high".

Recreational marijuana photo courtesy

Recreational drug use has been associated by some[by whom?] with various dispositions such as curiosity, boredom, low self-esteem, desire for risk, for meditation, desire to escape from or cope with difficulties, to relax, to increase energy, and to improve focus or concentration. Psychological disorders such as depression, trauma, social anxiety, and schizophrenia have also been claimed by some people[by whom?] to be promoters of drug use. Some users seek to encourage their socializing or an aphrodisiac effect.

Drugs commonly considered capable of recreational use include alcohol, Cannabis, nicotine, caffeine, and controlled substances within the scope of the United Nations' Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs and Convention on Psychotropic Substances. International and domestic law enforcement agencies are perpetually occupied with interdiction efforts against illegal drug use, manufacture, and distribution.[not specific enough to verify]


Genetic research has indicated that man and his distant ancestors "may have evolved to counter-exploit plant neurotoxins". The ability to use botanical chemicals to serve the function of endogenous neurotransmitters may have improved the survival rate, conferring an evolutionary advantage. A typically restrictive prehistoric diet may have emphasised the apparent benefit of consuming psychoactive drugs, which had themselves evolved to imitate neurotransmitters.

"Emerging insights from plant evolutionary ecology and the genetics of hepatic enzymes, particularly cytochrome P450" have led researchers to believe that "humans have shared a co-evolutionary relationship with psychoactive plant substances for millions of years."

Responsible use

The concept of "responsible 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.[6] 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 adulterants 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.


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. However, studies which focus on a moderate level of alcohol consumption have concluded that there can be substantial health benefits from its use, such as decreased risk of cardiac disease, stroke and cognitive decline.] 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.