Recreational drugs and chronic pain

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teens with marijuana
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The term “drug” can refer to a medication that is prescribed by a doctor or bought over the counter at a pharmacy. Prescription medications are often misused. Only take them as instructed by your healthcare team.

The term can also refer to recreational drugs. Recreational drugs include:

  • marijuana (also known as pot, weed, joint, THC, cannabidiol) – this is different from pharmaceutical cannabinoids to treat pain (medical marijuana should not be prescribed to anyone under age 25)
  • cocaine (also known as coke, snow, flake, blow)
  • amphetamines (for example ecstasy, X, E, uppers, XTC, speed, meth, ice, crank, m-cat)
  • heroin (also known as H, horse, smack)
  • anabolic steroids.

Some drugs have a depressant effect while others are powerful stimulants. For a detailed list of recreational drugs and their effects and risks, check out the FRANK website​.

Why people take drugs

Some people believe drugs will help them to think better, be more active or become better athletes. Others are simply curious and assume that trying them once won't hurt. Still more take them because they want to fit in and be more popular with their peers.

Many people also use drugs because they are depressed and think drugs will help them escape their problems. This can be a risky way of thinking, especially if you are considering recreational drugs to help you handle your chronic pain. Drugs don't solve problems. In fact, they only hide feelings and problems for a short time and may actually make things worse once they wear off. Using drugs can ruin every aspect of a person's life.

Dangers of recreational drugs

  • Recreational drugs can interact with your pain medications and possibly cause severe damage to organs such as your brain, liver and kidneys.
  • They may cause confusion, anxiety, learning difficulties or memory loss.
  • They can lead to risky behaviour such as having unprotected sex or engaging in “high driving” (driving while impaired by drugs).
  • Repeated use can lead to addiction. You use the drug for a psychological high and your body becomes used to the effects of the drug.
  • You may never be sure if the drug you are taking is laced or “cut” with something else. Some drugs can be laced with other substances to bulk them up (and make them more profitable). It is difficult to know what is in them and what effect they can have on you alongside the drug.
  • Many drugs are illegal. Being caught in possession of some of these drugs, even for personal use, will get you in trouble with the law.
  • A drug overdose can cause serious mental or physical damage or even death.

Last updated: May 2nd 2016