When we think about recreation, we tend to think about fun and relaxing activities that give us the opportunity to recharge our batteries and put our worries aside for a little while. We might pursue a hobby or watch several episodes of our favorite show or put together a puzzle. If we have a taste for more active forms of recreation, we might play pickup basketball with a friend, head out to the tennis courts, or go for a run on a scenic trail. Pretty safe activities, one and all.
But some recreational activities are decidedly more dangerous. Rock climbing (especially free climbing) comes to mind. Taking up rugby might be another example. Or maybe the rush of white water rafting.
Our point here is simple: the word “recreation” is not always synonymous with the word “safe.” That may be especially true when it comes to drugs that are perfectly legal but can still be problematic in a variety of ways.
Let’s take a look at two drugs that are legal for recreational use in Colorado—marijuana and alcohol—to consider ways your quest for a relaxing time can go wrong.
When Weed Can Be Worrisome
Colorado has been at the forefront of a national movement toward the legalization of marijuana for recreational use. And for plenty of folks, using the drug from time to time as a way to relax presents very few, if any, problems. This is true, in part, because cannabis does not seem to lead to the kinds of dangerous physical addictions associated with other drugs.
Still and all, for some people, marijuana use can become problematic and lead to the development of a substance use disorder.
This is true because repeated exposure to THC—the part of marijuana that supplies the high—leads to changes in the brain. Over time, the brain comes to expect an ongoing supply. If a person suddenly stops using marijuana, the lack of THC can lead to a range of withdrawal symptoms.
Those symptoms may include:
- Extreme cravings for marijuana that are difficult to overcome
- Difficulty focusing and/or trouble sleeping
- Mood changes, which may include increased irritability
- A reduction in appetite and a range of stomach issues
- Sweating and/or chills—including cold sweats
- An increase in symptoms of depression
To avoid—or at least reduce the severity of—these symptoms, it might be wise to have a conversation with your physician or therapist before giving up marijuana entirely. They may be able to offer strategies that can ease the transition to a cannabis-free lifestyle.
Addressing Issues With Alcohol
Of course, alcohol has been legal in Colorado and across the United States for far longer than marijuana has been. And the various signs and dangers of alcohol abuse are well documented. And if you spot those signs—or have them pointed out to you—you may well want to stop drinking. But as with marijuana, a sudden stop can lead to withdrawal symptoms.
Those symptoms may include:
- Marked mood changes, including feeling anxious, nervous, irritable, or depressed
- Having difficulty thinking clearly
- Having difficulty sleeping and/or having nightmares
- Feelings of fatigue
- Headaches, dilated pupils, pale skin, and/or sweating
- Increased heart rate and/or shakiness
- Appetite loss, nausea, and/or vomiting
- In extreme cases, delirium tremens (commonly called the DTs), which can include:
- Extreme agitation and confusion
- High blood pressure
Often, the best strategy for dealing with withdrawal from alcohol is to go through detoxification and rehabilitation in a fully accredited residential treatment center.
An Important Question: Are You Using for Recreation or for Self-Medication?
Sometimes a person starts smoking marijuana or drinking alcohol to excess as a way to address feelings of anxiety or depression or any of a number of other mental health issues. As a result, substance use disorders and mental health disorders are frequently connected. These co-occurring disorders can contribute to one another—and not in a good way.
If you are using marijuana or alcohol to dull negative feelings, you may eventually find that it takes more of your drug of choice to accomplish the same level of emotional relief. As a result, your substance use disorder becomes increasingly serious. Meanwhile, you are not actually addressing your mental health issues, which means they may worsen as well.
This can be a very difficult cycle to break free of—especially on your own and in the face of the difficult withdrawal symptoms associated with marijuana and alcohol.
Fortunately, help is available.
Peak View Behavioral Health Will Work Hard to Help You With Recreational Drugs
It is easy to fall into the trap of believing that because a drug is legal it must be safe. It is even easier if the people in your life seem to be able to enjoy marijuana or alcohol without any negative consequences.
But of course the important question is not whether a drug is legal or whether a drug is safe for other people. The important question is whether or not a drug is safe for you.
And if the answer to that question turns out to be no, then the next important question is: Where can you turn for help?
At Peak View Behavioral Health, we know that no two people have the same experiences when it comes to substance use disorders, mental health disorders, or any combination of the two. That is why we are committed to listening to you, understanding your story, and creating a personalized plan of treatment that addresses your specific needs.
We are also committed to providing the resources and support you need to start your recovery journey with confidence. If marijuana, alcohol, and/or related mental health disorders have your life in disarray, we can help you get things back under control.