8 Tips for Using Recreational Drugs Responsibly

The ‘War on Drugs’ and ‘Just Say No!’ campaigns have been colossal failures, and one of the main reasons — a reason people don’t like to talk about — is that taking drugs is fun, and not everybody who does it has a problem.

Fire breathing "Jaipur Maharaja Brass Band" Chassepierre Belgium. Photo by Luc ViatourLicense: Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Fire breathing “Jaipur Maharaja Brass Band” Chassepierre Belgium. Photo by Luc Viatour
License: Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported (CC BY-SA 3.0)

We don’t like to admit that, but it’s true.

I am not advocating that anybody use recreational drugs. However, some people will choose to do so, and it’s better they do it intelligently than stupidly. Recognizing and taking steps to mitigate risks is smart. It’s harm reduction. To that end, I believe the thoughts contained below will be helpful.

These are the principles that I maintained (albeit unconsciously and imperfectly) throughout my not-always-sober youth. Following them, I managed to mature into an intelligent, non-addicted, and well-enough-adjusted adult who, well, is not always sober. But I usually am. Definitely over 95% of the time.

Drugs can destroy lives, no doubt. This is true, it’s awful, and we need to do everything we can to stop it. However, because I was a careful user, my life was not destroyed — it was enriched. I knew I was playing with fire, but as any fire-breather can tell you, there are ways to do that relatively safely.

The kinds of drugs I’m talking about here are heroin, Valium, alcohol, Oxycontin, cannabis, Dexadrine, Adderall, Xanax, cocaine, ketamine, GHB, MDMA, MDA, DXM, methamphetamine, etc — drugs that can be a lot of fun, but have some substantial amount of abuse potential.[1]If you are offended that I included cannabis on this list, don’t be. I realize that it is not as dangerous as these other drugs, and I realize that it has many beneficial and medicinal properties — but it does have potential for abuse, and it does have potential negative side effects.
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It’s also important to note that I believe psychedelic drugs (mushrooms, LSD, DMT, etc) to be a major exception to the general principles in this article. Psychedelics are rarely abused, and aren’t often addictive — in fact, they can help to heal addiction. Psychedelics are not an escape. Usually, they will put you face to face with whatever it is you are trying to escape, and make you look right at it (in technicolor) for hours on end. Responsible psychedelic use is another topic entirely.

1. Use consciously, not casually

Did you plan to take this drug today? Is there any particular reason? When was the last time you took this drug? Any other recreational drug? How would you feel if you didn’t take it? How much do you know about it and where it came from?

These are some of the basic questions users should be in the habit of asking themselves. Shining the light of conscious attention and rational reflection onto the details of any potential drug-taking is an absolute must.

Conscious use is contrasted with casual use, which is habitual and thoughtless. It often takes place daily; at least weekly or monthly. Use is not treated seriously, but whimsically. The power of these substances is not respected. When not respected, recreational drugs can, and often will, smack you down.

2. Learn the facts

Erowid.org – If you have plan on taking any recreational drug, bookmark this website. Do you know how long GHB lasts? That crack is more addictive than powdered cocaine? That you shouldn’t mix alcohol with Xanax?

Before you take a drug – learn about it. Read through Erowid’s entire section about it. Learn the proper dosages and start small. Know what the effects will be, good and bad. Know how long it should last. Read about other people’s experiences and advice. Web forums like Bluelight.ru are extremely useful for this.

All recreational drugs have good and bad effects and you want to be prepared for both. Of course, calculated risk for pleasure is something we already accept in society. Bungee jumping. Skiing. Driving. Sex with strangers. Rare steak. All entail some risk, but that’s okay, as long as we are aware of the risks and are able to do an honest cost/benefit analysis.

You want to be well-informed enough to know that you should check the label for all active ingredients (you only want DXM) — before drinking the entire bottle of Robitussin.

3. Be aware of your susceptibility to addiction

Addictions specialist Dr. Gabor Maté has a saying, that we shouldn’t ask ‘why the addiction?’, but rather ‘why the pain?’. People are prescribed ostensibly ‘addictive’ drugs like opiates all the time, yet only a small number of them become addicts. Almost universally, these are people who have a great deal of deep-seated emotional pain.

Think about it like this. Let’s say that happy-good feelings exist on a scale of 1-100. A normal person, who hangs out around 75, takes some opiates and their happiness shoots up to 90. They think ‘wow, that was fun’, and go on with the rest of their lives. For people with a lot of pain, often their happiness level is down at something like 25. They take an opiate, it shoots up to 80, and they think ‘OH MY GOD. This is what I’ve been missing in my life. Give me more.’

One way to determine your potential susceptibility is to take the ACE (Adverse Childhood Experience) test, here. The higher you score, the warier of recreational drug use you should be.

In one way or another, most recreational drugs kill pain, and the kind of pain I’m talking about is there for a good reason — you were hurt — and you have to deal with it, not cover it up.

4. The more you like something, the longer you should wait to do it again (if at all)

If you really, REALLY enjoy a drug — if something about it makes you want to do it again right away — chances are there is something, some deficiency in your life, that you feel the drug is making up for. If you have a full and happy life, being high can’t offer you anything that you don’t already have enough of. Yes, getting sloppy and drunk a couple of times a year might be fun, but fundamentally, you can take it or leave it.

If it’s not just an extra sprinkle of fun to add some spice every once in a while, if it’s giving you something essential, but that you lack, there should be warning bells in your head screaming:

**WARNING**   BE SOBER   **WARNING**   SELF-WORK NEEDED   **WARNING**

The first time I sniffed some cocaine, I felt like my social anxiety disappeared. I could talk to anyone and it was fun, not scary. I made a point to NOT DO IT AGAIN, FOR MONTHS. While having the superpower called ‘sociability’ was fun, I actually wanted to learn to do that on my own. That takes self-work, not getting high.

A photo I took in 2009 of my stacks of valium and klonopin. License: Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported (CC BY-SA 3.0)

A photo I took in 2009 of my piles of valium and klonopin. I discuss my use in number 7.
License: Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported (CC BY-SA 3.0)

5. Regularly test your resolve

Smoke pot a lot? Sniffing coke every weekend? Not sure if it’s a problem? Stop for a month. Stop for six months.

If you’re thinking ‘I could, but I don’t want to’, ask yourself: how do you know you could? Have you tried? Recently? Feeling like you could and actually doing it are two different things. In fact, even just ‘not wanting to’ is a pretty bad sign. What is it about being sober that you don’t ‘want’? Is it somehow intolerable?

Here’s a good rule of thumb – if staying sober is difficult for you, you need to stay sober for a while and figure out why.

In all honesty, whether or not you can stop taking a drug for a period of time should never even come up – because you should always have extended periods of time when you aren’t taking drugs.

6. Be aware of developing patterns, and ask for help BEFORE they are a problem

Like I just said, using often is a bad sign. Escalating frequency and/or dosage is a bad sign.

Most drugs have a thing called ‘tolerance’. If you sniff enough ketamine to leave your body and journey inward to the deepest recesses of your mind (known as a K-hole), and then try again the next day, it’s going to take a lot more ketamine, if it’s even possible at all.

Heroin addicts inject doses large enough to make us muggles black out instantly and puke all over ourselves. And that’s just enough for them to prevent withdrawal symptoms, not get them high.

If you are taking any drug often enough that you need to continuously keep taking more to get high – stop taking it! I know. It’s easier said than done — but if it’s not easy, or at least possible, to stop, then YOU HAVE A PROBLEM and you need to ask for help.

7. Don’t self-medicate. But if you do self-medicate, do it responsibly.

Self-medicating is stupid. I don’t recommend it to anyone. Just go talk to your doctor. If you have a legitimate concern that needs treatment with psychoactive medication, they will help you out (sometimes a little bit too readily, in my opinion)! But if, like me, you are stubborn and kinda stupid, you might do it anyway. Here’s what worked for me:

I took Valium and/or Klonopin (benzodiazepines) for over two years. I was closeted, anxious, and coming to grips with the need to tell my friends and family that I want to suck cock, so I self-medicated. But I did it smart. I looked up what safe dosages were, how much people who were actually prescribed these drugs were taking, and I modeled my use after that. I wrote down how much I took every single day, religiously, to make sure I wasn’t escalating or being careless.

After I came out, and after a few horrible attempts to stop cold turkey, I weaned myself off the meds really slowly, over the course of six months, until I was only taking a tiny dose every other day. It was almost symbolic at that point. It’s been well over two years since I took a benzo, and only now am I considering using them recreationally, occasionally.

If you are curious, I manage my anxiety now with a daily meditation practice, among other tactics.

Bottle of Bayer brand Heroin, sold in the USA circa 1907. License: Public Domain

Bottle of Bayer brand Heroin, sold in the USA circa 1907.
License: Public Domain

Of course, doing what I did required a lot of discipline, that many people don’t have. That’s why you should just ask a doctor for help.

8. Keep in Mind Relative Risks

We all know that some drugs are more dangerous than other ones. It’s a lot easier to overdose on heroin than it is on Valium, and it’s basically impossible with cannabis. But there is another kind of relative risk I’d like you to keep in mind.

Even if your near-daily Xanax habit doesn’t cause major problems in your life, think about whether or not it is serving you. I think that Randy Marsh, Stan’s dad on South Park, had some excellent insight into this area:

“The truth is marijuana probably isn’t gonna make you kill people, and it most likely isn’t gonna fund terrorism, but pot makes you feel fine with being bored, and it’s when you’re bored that you should be learning some new skill or discovering some new science or being creative.”

There’s a lot of wisdom in that. Drugs can be a fun extra curricular activity, but don’t let them become your only, or even primary, extracurricular activity.

In some ways, this risk is more insidious than full-out, blowing-random-dudes-for-crack-money addiction, because it isn’t always obvious there’s a problem. The losses aren’t obvious. They only show up in terms of missed gains.

This is the one major area where I’ve fallen short in the past. I’ve spent a lot of time smoking pot that I could’ve been doing something more fulfilling. Which is one of the reasons I almost never smoke anymore.

Conclusion

This might all sound controversial, but think about this: everything I’ve listed here is pretty much common wisdom when it comes to alcohol — an insidiously toxic (yet legal) drug — but when I apply these ideas to other recreational drugs, it suddenly appears suspect.

I’m sure that there are exceptions and caveats to all of these points that I am either unaware of, or that in the interest of space I was unable to explore, but my central point is this: counter to the current cultural wisdom, it is possible to use recreational drugs – any recreational drug – in a responsible way. Maybe not for everybody, but for many (probably most) of us.

Altering consciousness with chemicals is a human tradition as old as humanity itself, and approached properly, it is a rich and beneficial source of new and different kinds of experiences. The current societal view that we should prevent everyone from using because some will develop problems is paternalistic, infantilizing, and offensive.

I hope that some of you have found the advice contained here useful. It certainly helped me.

References   [ + ]

1. If you are offended that I included cannabis on this list, don’t be. I realize that it is not as dangerous as these other drugs, and I realize that it has many beneficial and medicinal properties — but it does have potential for abuse, and it does have potential negative side effects.
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It’s also important to note that I believe psychedelic drugs (mushrooms, LSD, DMT, etc) to be a major exception to the general principles in this article. Psychedelics are rarely abused, and aren’t often addictive — in fact, they can help to heal addiction. Psychedelics are not an escape. Usually, they will put you face to face with whatever it is you are trying to escape, and make you look right at it (in technicolor) for hours on end. Responsible psychedelic use is another topic entirely.

Aaron Moritz

Aaron is a Srsly Wrong podcast host, writer, and decent human being. He thinks you are swell.

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7 Responses

  1. allie says:

    Great.I’ve recently started experimenting and I like them a little too much which is concerning. I don’t want to throw my life away but I still want to have and continue my self discovery. This article really did put things in prospective. What food is all the discovery and happiness the drug gives you if it’s a dead end. Responsible use is key. Even though difficult

  2. The first real problem is the societal schizophrenia where recreational drug use is absolutely always bad while there is no problem what so ever with permanent use of any drug for the rest of your life once it is prescribed by a doctor. Absolute faith and devotion to the Pharma gods is not a path to salvation. Next interesting point to make is that understanding a substance’s full history is critical. The indigenous practice of chewing coca leaves seems to be far less problematic than refined forms of cocaine. Since the opium wars it has been perfectly clear that ruling elite have no problem with addiction. It is free market competition with their cartels and monopolies that can not be tolerated.

    I would not give a moment’s thought to going a day or more without coffee. I have kicked the considerable physical addiction at least twice. That meant enduring the two week singing headache only to get to the basic conclusion that I just like my morning cup of coffee. There is no down side. People who go on about clogged pineal glands and spiritual detriment need to come up with something more substantial here.

    The only addition I would throw in is that any drug use in the teen years is bad. We are talking the following very real harms here. First there is the basic problem of how basic psychiatric conditions present themselves. I am including chemical addictions here. Uncontrolled drug use in the teen years pretty much grantees that when the underlying problem presents itself the drug use will exacerbate things horrifically and there will be no happy endings. Next is the stunted or lost potential issue. For these reasons I am fine with pretty draconian measures to prevent drug use by teens. The secret here is good parenting.

    You made the point very well that all substances are not created equal. My attitude here is very interesting. I did go through the 80s NYC pre AIDS club scene. That gave recreational drugs a whole new meaning. I am blessed with a body that really reacts poorly to the really addictive drugs. An interesting thing about my psyche is that I do not experience any separation from the high and the CRASH. The CRASH always sucks vastly worse than the high.

    This is where the whole topic gets really interesting. I believe the vast majority of individuals in western modern society maintain any modicum of sanity and equilibrium by walling off every part of their psychic, emotional, sensory experience that does not conform to this quaint little set of idealized notions. Maintaining these barriers takes lots of work and energy. I feel the best parts of one’s self might be walled off behind these barriers. Certain substances help maintain this deadened disconnected armored state. Certain substances blow the walls away. Pot and the psychedelics fall into the Walls Come tumbling down category. This was, I believe, the primary reason for these drugs being banned. Pot, mescaline, psylocybin and LSD undermine the extremely effective mind control that contemporary society has put in place.

    Getting to a personal level I have had a really positive experience around pot. I am currently speaking from a years long dry spell. I would love to end the dry spell immediately but I don’t know anyone who can hook me up. For me pot is extremely social. Pot use is self limiting. I know that if I smoke too much I will get burned out. One of my favorite things about pot is that it heightens psychic rapport. This is why I would never have any interest in being high if my companions were not there with me. I was introduced to pot in my early 20s by my friends, I was living in New Orleans when things really got interesting. One thing they made very clear is that you should never get high and just vegetate. That is a complete waste. Being high with friends definitely side steps any ADD or Aspergers issues I might have. For me pot makes any activity fun. Good highs are like good sex, you never experience too much of either. Letting a good high go to waste is a sin. To make sure you do not let a good high go to waste you must first put on awesome music. you must then prepare or go out in search of an awesome meal. To be really certain of the Goddess’s blessing you must have at least one mind blowing edged orgasm, preferably not alone.

    With that all out there I have seen and I do not like wake&bakes . I do not want to be high constantly. Wake&bakes smoke without respite until the supply is gone. Wake&bakes have no problems with transgressing the requirements of a holy high. All wake&bakes I have know were self medicating to deal with a vastly more severe psychiatric issue.

    I find computer gaming to have been more addicting than pot. I would have the same regret about “doing more” but there really does not seem all that I am keeping myself from doing.

  3. sef says:

    you put 7. twice

    • aaron says:

      Thanks! Fixed. No matter how many times you read it over, still miss stuff. I was shuffling around the order at the end there. I wasn’t high! I swear! 😛

      • Raz says:

        Another amazing article, Thanks Aaron 🙂

        I don’t necessarily think smoking pot every day is bad – I’m not increasing dosage, a joint or two every day has been the norm for years now. Without pot, I become hyper aware of my aches and pains; If I don’t smoke for a few days and “the fog clears” I immediately notice my body more, and become agitated with my leg and back. On a different topic, I still wouldn’t mind trying Benzos

        • aaron says:

          Yeah! I think cause you have a legitimate medical reason to use it, that’s a different story. If smoking pot works as a pain killer for you, you’re doing far less to no damage compared with popping opiates on the regular.

          I just know that many people experience pot as a motivation killer. I really see that as one of it’s biggest downfalls. That and it gives me anxiety nowadays.

  1. May 7, 2014

    […] retains the same punitive outlook on recreational drugs, deeming them illegal. Supporters of recreational drugs rejoiced at the positive change, putting forth the argument that marijuana is lesser of an evil, […]

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