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

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

Are you, or is someone you know, using drugs recreationally? Are you concerned that your recreational use might be becoming an addiction? Do you know the difference between what is termed, ‘recreational’ use and addiction? In this Blog we will take a look at what differentiates a recreational user to an addict, some of the dangers associated with recreational use and addiction, and what you can do to get help for yourself or a loved one. 

First, let’s take a look at what a ‘recreational drug’ actually is. Recreational drugs are classified as chemical substances that people take for enjoyment, as opposed to using it for medicinal purposes. Amphetamines, LSD, alcohol, and cocaine are examples of recreational drugs, prescription medications may also be taken recreationally when not prescribed by a doctor. Recreational drug use usually starts out as a pleasurable or exciting past time, however not all users will remain recreational users. Often, what began as a “recreational use” past time, becomes an addiction. 

“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. When using a drug recreationally, there should be little impact on the user’s daily life; however, there may still be issues relating to risky behaviour while under the influence, driving or road traffic accidents, relationship issues/arguments etc. Addiction comes with all of these risks (and many others) but at a more frequent rate and usually with more extreme circumstances. 

So you might be asking what the difference is between recreational use and addiction if the effects are so similar. Let’s compare some characteristics…

Characteristics of a Recreational Drug User

Take a look at the following characteristics of a recreational user and see if you fit into this category:

  1. A recreational drug user can easily say no to situations where drugs are offered. This is primarily because he or she sees the use of drugs and alcohol as potential problems that could ruin their life if allowed to spiral out of control.
  2. A recreational user generally has good relationships with family, friends and co-workers who are primarily non-users. He or she enjoys these relationships.
  3. A recreational drug user doesn’t depend on the drug for personal power – never considers taking drugs to gain extra confidence, for libido power or for hope.
  4. Recreational users do not have drugs constantly on their mind. They rarely think about drugs and they are not preoccupied about when their next high will be. 
  5. A recreational user will think twice about spending money on drugs until other financial obligations are met. 
  6. A recreational user does not experience feelings of ‘missing out’ or anxiety when drugs are not available. Recreational users are content to go out without drugs and still have a good time.

Characteristics of an Addict

Not all recreational drug users are able to remain recreational users and will find themselves using higher doses, more frequently – which often leads to an addiction. 

If you are concerned about yourself, or someone you are close to, check through these classic characteristics of an addict and see how many apply:

  1. An addict believes (at least initially) that using drugs is connected to them having more power in personal relationships, higher libido, greater focus, less stress or in some way makes them feel they are more joyful, ‘fit in’ better, or have more hope.
  2. An addicted drug user has a much more difficult time saying no when they are offered drugs compared to a recreational user who can ‘take it or leave it’.
  3. As an addiction develops, the user will often start to make friends with other users and start spending less time with non-using friends who might not approve of their drug use. 
  4. An addict will have relationship problems with partners, family and friends as arguments and dishonesty are often factors.
  5. An addict may turn to criminal behaviour, either as a result of behavioural changes when under the influence (driving under the influence or fighting for example), or for financial gain to fund their habit (theft, burglary or fraud).
  6. An addict will choose to buy drugs at all costs, even if it means not paying their mortgage, rent or other household essentials.
  7. Drugs, ensuring that they have enough of them, and their next high are always on the mind of an addict.

Professional Determination of Addiction

Psychologists use the DSM reference book for determining addiction. The DSM lists all the criteria for diagnosing someone that is “officially addicted”.

The DSM refers to an addict having met the criteria for 12 months so it is not helpful in officially diagnosing early addiction but it still provides useful guidelines. The DSM Criteria for Addiction includes:

  • Increased tolerance to the drug (you have to take greater and greater amounts of the drug to achieve the same effects that you did when you started using).
  • The presence of withdrawal symptoms when you stop using the drug.
  • You try to stop using but are unable to stop or stay stopped.
  • Large amounts of time are spent trying to obtain drugs and situations to use.
  • You stop spending time with non-using friends.
  • You stop taking part in hobbies that you previously used to enjoy.
  • You keep using the drug even though you know it’s causing you physical and psychological problems.

Avoiding or Dealing with Addiction

No one sets out intending to become an addict, but addiction can happen in a short period of time, particularly when individuals are recreationally using highly addictive substances such as heroin and other opioids. 

Drug addiction and alcoholism are progressive diseases. If you do not seek professional help, your addiction will worsen over time. Seeking help as soon as you realise you have a problem is by far the best solution. The longer your addiction remains unchecked, the more you risk of damaging your health through sickness, overdose, accident or injury.

For those with severe addictions, The Lighthouse Bali is able to offer medical detox in combination with Primary Inpatient Programs. The Lighthouse Bali is one of the only rehabs in Bali that is able to provide this service. A medical detox is closely monitored by our medical and clinical teams and it is, by far, the safest and most comfortable way to detox due to the unpredictable nature of the withdrawal symptoms.

Inpatient Care and Rehab

The Lighthouse Bali’s proven combination of an initial Primary Inpatient Program*1  followed by Outpatient Care and Ongoing Therapy has helped addicts from around the world to get their lives back on track. Through individually tailored treatment, professional therapy, and compassionate support, you will be given the tools you need to ensure the best possible chances for long term recovery.

*1 The duration of Primary Inpatient Programs and Outpatient Care varies according to individual circumstances. Both Inpatient and Outpatient treatment is based around monthly (28 day) increments. As a general guideline we recommend between one month and three month Primary Inpatient Programs,  followed by one to two months Outpatient Care in Bali, and up to six months of ongoing therapy (by Zoom or Skype from home). The longer you stay in rehab, the better your chances of achieving long term sobriety when you return home.  

If you are concerned about yourself or a loved one, we urge you to reach out and contact us in confidence. Our private programs are tailormade to suit individual needs and our doctorate level clinical staff have extensive experience in the field of addiction. If you are not currently in Bali we are able to arrange travel and entry visas for you to come here for treatment. If you prefer an online option, we also have online recovery options available but please note these are not a substitute for inpatient care.

To talk to one of our team members, contact us on WhatsApp or by Phone. Alternatively, send us an email and we will either answer your questions in writing or call you back, according to your preference (contact us).

 We understand how difficult it can be to reach out for help, but you only need to do it once. Picking up the phone or sending an email is your first step on the road to recovery. You do not need to go through this alone and we are ready to listen.

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