The ten most popular recreational drugs are a variety of substances that produce specific feelings and symptoms. They originate from different sources and are unique in their design, purpose and abuse. Here is a quick snapshot of each drug, its history and/or effects:

    1. Marijuana It is estimated that approximately 5 million Americans use marijuana daily and it is the most popular recreational drug. Derived from the cannabis plant, it is cheap, easily accessible and it can be smoked or eaten in food. It is both a psychoactive and psychedelic drug causing feelings of euphoria, relaxation, slowed thinking, memory impairment and paranoia. Long-term use can impair memory formation in the brain and affect learning and intelligence.
    2. Alcohol Alcoholism is a chronic, progressive and addictive disease. Symptoms associated with alcoholism are drinking too much, not being able to reduce intake, binge drinking and not being able to quit. Over time, a tolerance builds up and more intake of alcohol will be needed to get high. Alcohol can take a toll on a person?s professional, social and personal life, including their health. The adverse effects of alcoholism can cause problems with the heart, brain, liver, pancreas and immune system, and increase the risk of getting cancer. Alcoholism can also reduce a person’s life expectancy by as much as ten years.
    3. Heroin  Heroin is a derivative of the opium poppy plant and is cheap to buy and easily accessible. Heroin binds to the opioid receptors of the brain and creates feeling of euphoria by altering brain chemistry. It can be smoked, snorted, sniffed or injected. The use of heroin is at epidemic proportions in the U.S. and is causing thousands of deaths every year. It is popular among most demographics and is physically and psychologically addictive.
    4. LSD LSD is considered the most powerful hallucinogenic drug known to man. Use of the drug creates psychedelic effects such as heightened visual awareness. Physical and psychological sensations are altered and some people experience strange reactions which can be over-whelming and frightening, causing fear, confusion and paranoia. LSD is sold in tablet form called microdots and is taken orally. LSD will cause extreme mood swings, delusions and hallucinations. Effects of the drug are dilated pupils, high blood pressure, nausea, and an increase in body temperature and heart rate. Other risks are personal injury or death while high on the drug, anxiety, depression, flashbacks, psychosis and schizophrenia.
    5. Benzodiazepines Benzodiazepines are sedatives originally used in psychiatry to sedate disturbed and violent patients. They create a hypnotic and relaxing effect in the user and are highly addictive if abused. Popular names are Valium, Librium, and Ativan. The U.S. has become a sedative culture because many physicians readily and frequently prescribe these drugs. Some people can experience adverse effects such as cognitive impairment and aggressive behavior. Abuse of the drug can cause confusion, dizziness, blurred vision, weakness, slurred speech, respiratory depression, coma and death by over-dose.
    6. Amphetamines Amphetamines are stimulant drugs that increase the amount of dopamine and serotonin in the brain. They create feelings of euphoria, increased mental focus and energy. For this reason, they are called “speed” on the street. The drug was popular during the 1970s and re-emerged in the 1990s with rave music. The effects of amphetamine use are increased heart, respiratory and blood pressure. The drug causes a feeling of alertness and power while dispelling fatigue and hunger. Binges of amphetamine use will cause the person to crash when the drug wears off. Long-term use can cause aggression, paranoia, hallucinations and psychosis. Amphetamines are highly addictive and create a strong craving for the drug, making it difficult to quit.
    7. Ecstasy Ecstasy is derived from amphetamines and is a synthetic, psychoactive drug that creates feelings of euphoria and well-being. It is popular among most demographics and is sold in capsules, which can be taken orally or sniffed. Known as MDMA and Molly, it increases the level of dopamine, serotonin and norepinephrine in the brain. The serotonin triggers the release of oxytocin and vasopressin, which affect feelings of love, trust and sexual desire and arousal. Long-term effects are confusion, depression, sleep difficulties, attention and memory impairment, increased heart rate and blood pressure.
    8. Cocaine Cocaine is believed to have originated in South America from the coca plant. It is a powerful stimulant and anesthetic drug that produces feelings of euphoria, high-energy and focused attention. Cocaine is usually snorted or dissolved in water and injected. Crack is a form of cocaine that has been processed to form a rock crystal that can be smoked when heated. The high from cocaine will last from 5-30 minutes depending on how the drug is taken. Cocaine will increase dopamine levels in the brain and block it from being recycled back to where it came from. This causes excessive amounts of dopamine to build up disrupting normal brain communication. Long-term use can cause changes in brain functioning along with the risk of psychological impairment. Other effects include heart attack, stroke and sudden death.
    9. Solvents Sniffing solvents became very popular during the 1970s advent of punk rock music. The abuse of solvents is prevalent among children and teenagers who are poor, destitute and who have been abandoned or orphaned. Solvents range from industrial to common ordinary items such as glue, aerosols, nail varnish, gas lighter fluid, petrol and others. These solvents are cheap and very easily accessible. Inhaling solvents through the nose and trachea is called huffing, sniffing or bagging. For the user who prefers bagging, the solvent is placed inside a plastic bag, which often covers the head. Death has occurred when a user becomes unconscious from the solvent and suffocates. Sniffing solvents create feelings of peace, warmth, euphoria, intoxication and vivid hallucinations. The dangers of using solvents are death from a lack of oxygen, pneumonia, heart failure or arrest, brain damage and aspiration of vomit.
    10. Psychedelic Mushrooms Psychedelic mushrooms have a very long history of use among tribal societies and became popular during the 1970s. There are over 180 species of mushrooms that contain the psychedelic compounds psilocybin and psilocin. These compounds cause a hallucinatory state in the user, which lasts from three to eight hours. Mushrooms can be eaten fresh, dried, cooked or boiled into a tea, and create feelings of euphoria. Psychedelic mushrooms will alter thinking, comprehension, and visuals and they are known to cause physical and psychological dependence.


The drug subcultures of America change over time and are often influenced by the arts, politics, and social peer groups. Early education of the dangers of drug abuse and addiction may help young people willingly reject taking the drugs mentioned above.

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About the Author

is a proud alumni member of WhiteSands Treatment. After living a life of chaos, destruction and constant let downs, Mark was able to make a complete turnaround that sparked a new way of life. He is serious about his recovery along with helping others. At WhiteSands Treatment, we offer support to you in your homes or when you are out living in your daily lives.