Top 10 Most Popular Recreational Drugs

Learn About the 10 Most Popular Recreational Drugs

If you aren’t struggling with addiction or consistently studying the trends associated with drug use, it can be very hard to keep up with the most popular recreational drugs. While drug culture is ever-changing, especially in a time when designer drugs are readily available to the curious minds of the modern age, it can be very important for parents, caretakers, and relatives of people struggling with addiction, to keep up with the most commonly abused recreational drugs.

What is a recreational drug? Recreational drugs are substances that are taken for leisure or for their mind-altering effects rather than their intended use, prescribed by a Doctor. All statistics in this article are taken from the global drug survey from 2014[1], they are great indicators of the most popular recreational drugs out there today.

10. Solvents

While most drugs are frowned upon by society, solvents are one of the few recreational drugs that are frowned upon by most drug addicts as well. If you aren’t familiar, solvents are drugs that are “huffed” or inhaled after being placed or sprayed into an area that can easily be breathed in cutting off the flow of oxygen to the brain while flooding it with chemicals. Have you ever wondered why you need to be at least eighteen years old to buy compressed air to clean your keyboard? Solvents are the reason. Other solvents include; spray paint, household cleaners, lighter fluid, nail varnish, and a wild array of different chemical compounds. The reason solvents make the list of the most popular recreational drugs is their easy access and low cost. They’re a common target for young teens curious about the effect of drugs, and the financially troubled.

9. Benzodiazepines

Benzodiazepines can be a terrifying term, but it’s a chemical family that includes common anxiety medications like Xanax. While drugs like crack-cocaine and heroine get a bad rap, rightfully so, for being dangerous, Xanax is one of the few drugs whose withdrawal symptoms are actually capable of taking lives. In addition to its dangerous withdrawal symptoms, benzos commonly cause blackouts, loss of memory, impaired judgment, and cause impaired motor skills. For these reasons, Xanax, one of the most commonly abused recreational drugs, is responsible for more than 30% of all prescription-related deaths.[2]

8. Painkillers

Officially known as Opioids, painkillers are deadly enough that even the people furthest from drug culture are aware of their presence, and have heard about the troubles caused by them. Heroin is one of the most ramped of this class of drugs, taking almost 35,000 lives in 2015[3]. Painkillers became popular for their easy access in pill mills, loosely prescribing doctor’s offices, in the early 2000s, and solidified themselves as one of the most popular recreational drugs with their euphoric and numbing effects on users. While these drugs are most commonly abused in 1st world countries, they have also been known to be a problem all over the globe.

7. LSD

Popularized by psychedelic bands and influential figures like Timothy Leroy and Albert Hoffman, LSD, or acid, came into the scene in the late 60s and steadily rose to popularity into the new millennium. While studies in late 2016 and early 2017 have been showing unexplored and practical uses for the drug, the most common use for LSD is its recreational use. Acid is a hallucinogenic, in minor doses it causes colors to look more bright, but in high doses it can cause full-blown hallucinations, impaired judgment, and a lack of awareness of one’s surroundings. While certainly not the most dangerous drug, with next to no cases of overdoses, it does come with its own problems. One of the symptoms of the “come-down” from LSD is depression, which has led to cases of suicide in the past. However, most deaths from LSD are related to impaired judgment or lack of awareness of one’s surroundings.

6. Mushrooms

Similar to LSD, mushrooms are a popular psychedelic drug that gained popularity due to its regular occurrence in nature, rather than in a lab as many of the most popular recreational drugs are created. Mushrooms have similar effects to LSD, and similarly to LSD, deaths are rarely caused by overdose. Instead, the most common mushroom-related deaths are suicide, accidents, and dangerous behavior, or due to inadvertently eating poisonous plant material.

5. Amphetamines

Like another one of the most commonly abused recreational drugs, amphetamines are often looked down upon even by fellow drug users. Amphetamines speed up the body, giving users a feeling of unlimited energy and increased confidence. However, with these good feelings comes an enormous toll on the body’s essential organs. Amphetamines commonly cause heart attacks, shortness of breath, organ failure, and an unhealthy increase in blood pressure. Common amphetamines include; Adderall, Meth, and Ritalin. It should be noted that Adderall and Ritalin have great prescription value in treating ADHD, ADD, and certain cases of depression, but without proper supervision and monitoring these drugs can be incredibly dangerous.

4. Cocaine

Cocaine gained immense popularity in the 80s and while it’s widespread use has certainly dropped off since then, it’s still one of the most commonly abused recreational drugs today. Much like amphetamines, cocaine gives users a feeling of indestructibility, increased energy and confidence, but with these effects comes the similar symptoms of heart attacks, shortness of breath, and increased blood pressure. In addition to these issues, cocaine is most commonly insufflated, or snorted, which causes trouble breathing, deviated septums, intense nosebleeds, and nasal infections.


MDMA, or ecstasy, is the poster child for designer drug use in today’s world. Commonly found in club and party scenes, MDMA is known for its euphoric, speedy, and compassion-inducing qualities. While these effects seem positive on paper, they are caused by a release of serotonin in the brain that creates irregularities in your body’s natural production of chemicals. This can cause serious health problems like depression, heart palpitations, heart attacks, organ failure, overheating, and dehydration. Recent studies have shown that MDMA may have prescription benefits in low doses for people struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder, but much like painkillers, these benefits are only effective when in a controlled and supervised environment. Taking MDMA recreationally can cause serious and irreparable health problems and even death. According to the DEA, MDMA was responsible for over 5,000 emergency room visits in the US during 2001[4].

2. Marijuana

Marijuana is infamous for its calming effects and painkiller properties, and while the drug is finding more and more states willing to deem it legal, it can still be a health concern for many users. For instance, it should never be used by people under the age of 25, unless medically necessary, as their mind is still developing and marijuana can stunt developmental growth. In addition to the effects on growing minds, marijuana still has a negative effect on lung health, causing problems similar to tobacco use. As the legal arguments that surround marijuana rage on, its popularity still continues to rise, making it one of the most popular recreational drugs today.

1. Alcohol

When faced with the questions, “what is a recreational drug”, many would point to the other items on our list, saying marijuana and cocaine were the most clear examples of what a recreational drug is. Nevertheless, one of the most common recreational drugs is a substance the majority of the Earth’s population takes part in consuming; Alcohol. Alcohol is responsible for over 88,000 deaths annually [5], making it one of the most deadly recreational drugs and, by far, one of the most readily available. While alcohol can be an enjoyable and healthy to consume if done in moderation, it can also be detrimental to one’s relationships, health, and life if used in excess. In fact, alcoholism is one of the most common addictions in the world, with over 1.3 million adults and 37,000 adolescents receiving treatment for alcoholism. It’s estimated that only 10% of those in need of treatment ever receive it. With this in mind, it is very important to be honest with yourself about your alcohol and drug usage, and to be honest with your relatives about their usage as well. Sometimes, a few caring words can be the difference between getting the treatment you need, and a life destroyed by addiction.


If you or a loved one needs help with abuse and/or treatment, please call the WhiteSands Treatment at (877) 855-3470. Our addiction specialists can assess your recovery needs and help you get the addiction treatment that provides the best chance for your long-term recovery.

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.