Casual cocaine user?
May 23, 2021 4:23 AM   Subscribe

Can someone be a "casual" cocaine user? My spouse and I are having a disagreement about addiction. The sides are abstinence vs. harm reduction. Spouse argues that someone who uses cocaine infrequently may be able to manage their addiction in life. I believe there is no such thing as a casual user of hard drugs. My opinion comes from personal experience and knowing many addicts in recovery. Spouse's opinion comes from graduate school where he took a counseling course on harm reduction. This comes from his textbook on harm reduction:

"Ken and his wife were seeing a counsellor for problems in their marriage. Ken let it be known he was using cocaine by injection occasionally on weekends. He insisted he was using only occasionally and didn’t plan to stop. The counsellor gave Ken some reading material that explained the risks of hepatitis C and HIV from sharing syringes and how to maintain a supply of clean ones. During a later session, Ken mentioned that he hadn’t been aware just how great the risks of injecting are and now snorts cocaine on the occasions that he uses."

I think it's great Ken in the example is no longer shooting up but I have never, ever met a casual cocaine user who could manage their use like a gentleman. Spouse believes that people like Ken are not addicts and do not need abstinence to live a full life. My question is: Do you know any casual users of hard drugs who you would not describe as an addict?
posted by Jason and Laszlo to Health & Fitness (47 answers total)
In the 80’s, I knew tons of people that would do coke or speed at parties if it was available but not do drugs during daily life. Is this the same thing or do you only mean people who are using it by themselves at home occasionally?
posted by gt2 at 4:33 AM on May 23, 2021 [25 favorites]

Okay this may is only based on my experience, but while I've never known a casual cocaine user who could manage their use like a gentleMAN, I've met MANY women who have used cocaine casually (or on occasion) who you'd literally never know. I think the usage is probably the same between the sexes, but (again based on what I've seen) it manifests itself differently depending on who you are and what the drugs do.

So I would say it depends on the user.
posted by Dressed to Kill at 4:35 AM on May 23, 2021 [5 favorites]

Almost everyone I know considers cocaine a “party drug”. I worked in restaurants most of my adult life, so partying was more or less part of the lifestyle. If it was there, people would do it, but only a few folks were actually putting their entire paychecks up their noses. I 100% believe that casual cocaine use is a thing.
posted by August Fury at 4:37 AM on May 23, 2021 [69 favorites]

Even treatment centers consider intermittent use not to be a reason for in-patient or residential treatment, even when people engage in period of behaviors like 3 days of use at a payperiod until the money is gone (which is obviously harmful!) But if a week later someone is seeking assistance it isn't drug dependance or withdrawal that is the issue, it is the choice to return and the psychological motivations behind this decisions. It is not the physical drug dependence at play. There is lots of discussion about reward pathways and drugs like cociane which is very interesting but really out of depth of this question that can impact compulsions to start back up even significant periods of time later.Outpatient therapy is recommended, but when someone regularly has 30 days between use, an inpatient treatment program wouldn't be recommended.

There is plenty of casual use. There is no defined line between casual and addictive use and may be different for everyone especially when you add in socioeconomic factors. Some people will never cross that line even with significant use. 500 dollars of use in a month isn't as big of a deal for someone brining in 6k a month vs the entire paycheck of another person. Also having the ability to say afford a taxi after use at a party vs someone who must get home in their own vehicle or public transit. Those factors really impact how we percieve substance use even though many of them are more socioeconomic.

When looking and talking to someone about addiction, we are often talking to them about the impacts on their lives (social relationships, responsibilities like jobs,childcare, or other obligations like court appointments, legal involvement, financial impact, health). Someone can definately have occsaional use and not have impacts in any area of their life.
posted by AlexiaSky at 4:53 AM on May 23, 2021 [38 favorites]

This might be of interest, although personally I side with you and don’t buy it.
posted by kevinbelt at 4:59 AM on May 23, 2021 [1 favorite]

I have never, ever met a casual cocaine user who could manage their use like a gentleman

Well, why would they have told you they were casual users if it's truly casual? I can almost guarantee you've met plenty of casual users of all sorts of substances, just as much as you've met very deeply addicted users of the same substances and different ones.

Usually, when people share stories of usage (or addiction, or issues), it's to either tell a story of why they had a difficult period in their lives, to stave off pressure to use from others, or to help others who may be heading to (or fully in) a direction they can't reverse. Or maybe to talk casually about their wilder days (that may or may not be going on, still).

Addiction is about a lot of things, most of them quite divorced from the actual substances or behaviors themselves.
posted by xingcat at 5:04 AM on May 23, 2021 [22 favorites]

Do you know any casual users of hard drugs who you would not describe as an addict?

Yes, plenty.

I'm in the music business, on the tech side, and while I have to admit I don't know every single personal detail of everyone's lives, I do know lots of musicians, tech crew, bartenders, bar backs, door people, etc., who will take a bump if it's offered but don't ever buy it, or buy enough for a "party weekend" a couple of times a year, or who maybe do a line every day or two, and they have jobs and homes and relationships and cars and no more debt than anyone else in the US who isn't a millionaire. They 100% lead full lives.

And when they've taken a bump they're not gibbering hyperactive assholes trying to steal my wallet or anything. They're "gentlemen" (and gentlewomen) who are really enthusiastic about having me stick around for a couple more drinks and tell that funny story about how that one time that band did that thing.

I will say that quite a few of those I know who are over 40 and still doing it have intentionally significantly reduced their coke use, and often after stopping entirely for a while - they feel they overindulged and/or were on the road to addiction when they were younger. AFAIK most of them did this without any sort of treatment programs or professional help.

So, yeah, as AlexiaSky says, both addiction and our very definitions of addiction exist on a spectrum, of behaviors and consequences and complex interactions of social status and economic class and biology.
posted by soundguy99 at 5:06 AM on May 23, 2021 [62 favorites]

Decided I wanted to word my answer differently for clarity. Clinically in the US we diagnose a substance use disorder (SUD) using the DSM V. There are 11 criteria in four different areas

1. Impaired control
2. Social impairment
3. Risky use
4. Pharmacological indicators (tolerance and withdrawal)

Note that simply use, or even frequency of use is not mentioned! There needs to be 2 reported problems out of the 11 critetia to meet the minimum standard for mild substance use disorder.
posted by AlexiaSky at 5:10 AM on May 23, 2021 [11 favorites]


"My opinion comes from personal experience and knowing many addicts in recovery." is an example of a Hasty Generalization Fallacy. (You know what percentage of the human race?)
posted by dancing leaves at 5:25 AM on May 23, 2021 [18 favorites]

For that matter there's not really any objective or scientific meaning to a term like "hard drug".

I think you're wrong in a lot of ways, but perhaps the most egregious is the fallacious reasoning of "I haven't seen this thing personally, so I think it doesn't exist, and is probably impossible."
posted by SaltySalticid at 5:34 AM on May 23, 2021 [34 favorites]

Spouse is correct. I know many who have dabbled in cocaine, myself included. I do think it is a potentially very addictive drug...I personally don't really want to do it again (I'm too old now! The next day can be brutal!) but if it was in front of me I would consider it. But haven't sought it out for years and did use it casually every other week or so for a time. I functioned fine.
posted by tiny frying pan at 5:39 AM on May 23, 2021 [6 favorites]

Yes, and not just for cocaine. Lots and lots of people use prescription pills (eg Xanax, Adderall, etc.), party drugs (eg Ecstasy), or opiates recreationally, usually without much in the way of consequences (like addiction). Think of alcohol -- someone can drink, even drink problematically, without necessarily being addicted, while another person struggles with addiction.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:00 AM on May 23, 2021 [8 favorites]

Concur as a lifetime rock musician. AND as a former chef. I’ve known tons of addicts. But I guarantee I have known many more occasional users who managed just fine. Part of the culture of those lines of work, as soundguy said above.
posted by spitbull at 6:04 AM on May 23, 2021 [7 favorites]

Of course a "hard drug" user can be a casual user. Are all the people you know who use "hard liquor" alcoholics?
posted by WaywardPlane at 6:16 AM on May 23, 2021 [12 favorites]

Since I've been hanging out in dance clubs more, I've met more people who are candid about their past or occasional use of it and/or make jokes about it. You'd have to travel in those circles to find that out, though. People (generally) aren't just going to walk up to anyone and start talking about it outside of that context. Then again, some people will! There's a lot less stigma about casual use on the club scene.

I met an online friend at a club for the first time in real life and they told me, within like 5 minutes of meeting me, how they were feeling a little anxious about being back in a club and that in times past, they probably would've used a little powder to get past the anxiety.

I asked someone else the other day what they were drinking, and they said Red Bull, then pulled me in conspiratorially and said, "It's like Cocaine Lite!"

Both of those people are around age 40 and have been clubbing way longer than I have, and to them it's just a normal facet of club life and culture to occasionally get a bump. What I also see is that those same people are trying to, in this nascent club reentry period, do things a little differently and not go as hard—drink less, keep better track of their intake, "dance yourself clean," etc.

So I absolutely think it's possible to be a casual user—not even just possible, but perhaps somewhat normative among certain segments of the club-going population, which is in line with what others in music and entertainment have said as well.
posted by limeonaire at 6:29 AM on May 23, 2021 [2 favorites]

I drink a beer or a glass of wine every now and then. I sometimes go months without having any. Does that make me an alcoholic? Hell no! I smoke an occasional joint, does that make me an addict? Hell no!

I'm older than most of you, started smoking pot and taking various drugs, including cocaine and heroin, way back in 1965. I have never been addicted to anything. I strongly suspect there's a genetic component to addiction and I'm pretty sure by this point that I don't have it. YMMV.
posted by mareli at 6:36 AM on May 23, 2021 [5 favorites]

Another piece of anecdata to chime in with most other posters: Yes, I know lots of people who recreationally take cocaine from time to time (or used to in their younger days), and I also know a couple of people who've experienced serious addiction.

There's no one size fits all and every millimetre of every spectrum you can think of is filled by someone, somewhere. In this case, it's filled with a lot of people, I suspect.
posted by underclocked at 6:37 AM on May 23, 2021 [3 favorites]

People who use heroin casually are called "chippers". The term can also be applied to the casual use of other drugs. The existence of such people is supported by medical research. See this article from the American Journal of Psychiatry: "The Natural History of Chipping".
posted by alex1965 at 6:39 AM on May 23, 2021 [4 favorites]

See also this article about Columbia University professor Carl Hart: "A Professor Makes a Radical Argument for Recreational Drugs".
posted by alex1965 at 6:41 AM on May 23, 2021 [4 favorites]

I think the key here is that you know "many addicts in recovery". So of course they haven't been able to use drugs casually. If someone you know is using casually and it hasn't affected their functioning or behavior, you'd only know about it if you were around them when they used.
posted by bearette at 6:49 AM on May 23, 2021 [10 favorites]

My opinion comes from personal experience

Personal experience is necessarily limited and it's filtered by all sorts of things - what people you know, what those people are willing to share with you, what you remember and what you don't ...

My question is: Do you know any casual users of hard drugs who you would not describe as an addict?

Yes. Including graduate students - the type of people without a lot of money and with pretty demanding schedules, so it wouldn't take much use for it to start interfering. I wouldn't have had a clue if they hadn't told me.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 7:53 AM on May 23, 2021 [5 favorites]

I've met addicts who started as casual users, people who stayed casual users, people who jumped right to life ruining addiction and all manners in between. So... yeah. Casual use is absolutely a thing. But I understand why you might be skeptical. It's called dancing with the devil for a reason! Still, I don't think it does much good to insist that nobody uses it casually without ruining their body or lives. It gives people who aren't using casually a place to hide from the truth.
posted by pazazygeek at 8:31 AM on May 23, 2021 [6 favorites]

Sampling recovered addicts to understand substance use is like sampling psychiatric inpatients to understand psychosis: the sampling bias will lead you to see the most extreme and unmanageable cases, and will not reflect the full spectrum of possibilities. The general psychiatric consensus is that biological factors alone (e.g., whether something is a "hard drug") are woefully insufficient to explain addiction. Just as some people who experience psychosis recover partially or fully, only a fraction of people who use even physiologically addictive substances such as cocaine or opiates will go on to unmanageably abuse the drug, become dependent, etc. There's no simple story about what biopsychosocial factors lead some people to become addicts and others to be resilient.

Although the DSM-5 no longer honors a distinction between substance abuse and substance dependence as qualitatively separate disorders, substance use disorders are seen as being on a spectrum that includes severe, moderate, mild, and non-disordered use. This spectrum exists regardless of the substance (with variations, of course). The middle ground between your and your husband's positions are that, yes, casual use exists and, yes, any drug use carries physical, psychological, and social risks for the user.

Source: I am a clinical psychologist at a residential psychiatric hospital developing a sub-specialty in substance use.
posted by mister-o at 8:45 AM on May 23, 2021 [21 favorites]

Best answer: I think it depends on whatever the definition of addiction is.
From PMC (PubMed Central is a free full-text archive of biomedical and life sciences journal literature at the U.S. National Institutes of Health's National Library of Medicine):
"Addiction is a term that means compulsive physiological need for and use of a habit-forming substance (like heroin or nicotine), characterized by tolerance and well-defined physiological symptoms upon withdrawal; it has also been used more broadly to refer to compulsive use of a substance known by the user to be physically, psychologically, or socially harmful."
Sounds like Ken isn't willing to give up the cocaine thing (is his weekly use compulsive?) and that, perhaps, his wife is unhappy with his cocaine use (this speculation is based on the fact that he mentioned his cocaine use during the counseling session) which means it might be causing some social harm.
posted by SageTrail at 8:45 AM on May 23, 2021 [1 favorite]

I believe there is no such thing as a casual user of hard drugs. My opinion comes from personal experience and knowing many addicts in recovery.

Your sample data is biased. If the only users of 'hard drugs' you meet are addicts in recovery, then of course you're going to think there is no such thing as a casual user. By that logic, because my personal experience is with many casual users of 'hard drugs' (mostly cocaine), none of whom exhibited any symptoms of addiction, there is no such thing as a hard drug addict. Sounds ridiculous, right?

Not to mention that most people who take a bump when it's offered or to get through a Saturday night kitchen/bar shift or even buy it on occasion just because they feel like it, are probably not going to be telling stories about it in mixed company, often because of precisely this type of stigma. It may well be there are several casual users among your acquaintance group and you're not aware, because you have no reason to be, because it's no more important to them than the dozens of other bits of minutiae that never come up in conversation.

Speaking as someone who has smoked cigarettes off and on for over 20 years and never been addicted to them, this is very dependent on the person. There are people out there who can drink wine now and then. Smoke tobacco or weed casually. Pop a Valium on occasion. Take a hit or two of MDMA because a friend of a friend has some. Use a party drug like cocaine when they're in the right environment. Do a couple rounds of shots at a friend's birthday. This does not make any of these people addicts.
posted by myotahapea at 8:53 AM on May 23, 2021 [4 favorites]

I know a number of people who use cocaine casually as a party drug. (I'm the boring friend.) I was housemates with one in a fairly small place and can assert confidently that she was not an addict or even a drinker - she'd drink at parties and use cocaine if offered but that was it. Honestly, I think that the addictive qualities of cocaine must be overstated.
posted by Frowner at 9:33 AM on May 23, 2021 [1 favorite]

Spouse is correct. There’s no reason you would know if someone you know uses “hard” drugs occasionally and casually. If you talk about drug use in front of such people the way you do here, any such friend you have has almost certainly clocked that you are not a safe person to talk about this topic with.
posted by Stacey at 9:42 AM on May 23, 2021 [8 favorites]

Also chiming in to say 100% possible. I would even say, a vast majority of drug users are not now or never have been or ever will be addicts. A large part of my social circle are occasional users of some kind of party drug (coke, molly, etc). And by occasional, I like 2-5 times a year. When...partying. And these are people in their 30s and 40s. With children. And successful careers. And totally functional lives.

I would say I know one actual coke addict and she is very high-functioning. I dare say she's so high functioning because of the cocaine as she doesn't use it to party. She uses it to keep working.
posted by greta simone at 9:59 AM on May 23, 2021 [3 favorites]

My experience of tech consulting during the dot com boom: the assumption in quite a few companies is that most of the executive team is indulging in a bump to power through the mid afternoon slump. It's way way more common in upper middle class white culture than anyone wants to let on.

I have been told by friends who were casual users that $5 worth for a little boost to get through the afternoon more than paid for itself in career advancement, and they only stopped (and took the career hit) because they realized they didn't like being an asshole.
posted by straw at 10:08 AM on May 23, 2021 [8 favorites]

The vast majority of people who use drugs, even 'hard drugs,' don't become addicts. That's not always the same thing as 'their drug use is risk-free,' or 'their drug use has no negative impact on their life,' but addiction is a specific thing with specific criteria that most users never meet.
If this is something you're really interested in, may I reccomend anything written by Mefi's Own Maia Szalavitz? She's done some fascinating work on the subject.
posted by BlueNorther at 12:12 PM on May 23, 2021 [2 favorites]

Don't forget that cocaine has a number of known

But this doesn’t really relate to the question — it’s not whether it’s hazardous, it’s whether it’s possible to use it casually. I know of at least one user who, back in the 80s, would do a line maybe once a month? That is exceedingly casual. Has it had a negative effect on their health? Maybe, but less than other things they’ve done...
posted by GenjiandProust at 12:15 PM on May 23, 2021 might be a better link - lots of stuff available to to read online for free.
posted by BlueNorther at 12:21 PM on May 23, 2021 [1 favorite]

Yes. I consider even casual use risky simply because we have such a weak understanding of what causes people to progress into addiction, but of course there are casual users of hard drugs. BigLaw is notoriously full of them, although apparently I radiate such squareness that no one ever offers me anything.
posted by praemunire at 12:25 PM on May 23, 2021 [2 favorites]

I've known people who have used pretty much every drug known to man casually, sometimes with a temporary dependence, and sometimes never developing any dependence at all. I've known people who became hopeless addicts to drugs I shrug off, and I've known people who drift between getting close to fucking up their lives and back to purely casual use. I even know a few former addicts who can have a fun evening with their drug of choice without relapsing into their old life-fucking habits.

I've also known people who fucked up their lives through addiction to things that aren't drugs or even widely considered to be vices.

In short, life contains multitudes. Rarely do generalizations of any kind capture the full tapestry of human experience.
posted by wierdo at 12:39 PM on May 23, 2021 [3 favorites]

Best answer: I believe there is no such thing as a casual user of hard drugs. My opinion comes from personal experience and knowing many addicts in recovery.

I know for a fact that casual users of hard drugs are real, because I know many such people personally and have worked professionally with several.

Almost every case I can recall of seeing people slide into addiction has been the result of using recreational drugs in an attempt to blot out intolerable feelings or make intolerable circumstances more bearable. Once a drug becomes a short term solution to a structural problem, as opposed to a joyous thing to be done for its own sake and/or as a seasoning to other joyous things, trouble is very likely to follow.

The exceptions have all been nicotine addictions.

Every single case also involved somebody who started using the substance concerned before having reached the age of 25. I don't personally know anybody who has acquired anything that could reasonably be described as an addiction after getting it together to be a fully autonomous adult. But that doesn't mean I go around claiming with some kind of conviction that no such people exist.

Also, what wierdo said.
posted by flabdablet at 1:25 PM on May 23, 2021 [7 favorites]

The exceptions have all been nicotine addictions.

I know someone who kicked both heroin and nicotine, and who said that, while the former wasn’t easy, the latter was much much harder, partly because how deeply it was coded into their social life.
posted by GenjiandProust at 2:04 PM on May 23, 2021 [3 favorites]

Using the term "hard" drugs muddles the question, I think. Some illegal drugs like hallucinogens are much less likely to lead to physical dependence, and alcohol and tobacco are 100% legal and have a high potential for physical dependence. So, if the question is "can you use a highly addictive drug without becoming addicted?" the answer is yes; however, the taboo around discussing illicit drug use makes it difficult to say how often this actually happens with drugs like heroin and cocaine. Anecdotal evidence is going to vary wildly based on the circles you run in and how likely those people are to feel comfortable disclosing their use to you.

If the question is "does benefiting from harm reduction mean that you are not addicted to X drug?", the field of harm reduction doesn't really take a stance on what makes someone an addict. The idea is that if someone is unwilling to stop or reduce their drug use, then you work on reducing the negative consequences associated with the drug. The example of Ken is textbook harm reduction but doesn't provide enough information to say whether he meets criteria for a substance use disorder.

I do think there is a strong argument to be made from your side that if someone who uses drugs benefits from harm reduction then they are likely to meet criteria for a substance use disorder. The DSM says that you meet criteria if your use causes "significant impairment or distress", so if your drug use has gotten to the point where it's causing harm then you would have a substance use disorder. If you want my opinion though, I think you're both right and it's complicated! Like the nature vs. nurture debate, there are no easy answers.
posted by fox problems at 2:07 PM on May 23, 2021 [1 favorite]

I do think there is a strong argument to be made from your side that if someone who uses drugs benefits from harm reduction then they are likely to meet criteria for a substance use disorder.

This doesn’t fit with my understanding of harm reduction. Nor is this perspective supported by the example in the question. Back in college, I went to a harm reduction-based workshop for queer youth. It was very much about getting us information with which to make informed decisions and maximize safety if we chose to partake in whatever. I honestly remember very little of the information, except that psilocybin is incredibly safe (you should have someone sober supervising), which basically blew my mind as a product of the DARE years, and whatever we learned about marijuana didn’t give me the level of comfort I wanted in order to try it. And lo and behold, I’ve still never tried marijuana (nor psilocybin) probably precisely because of the harm reduction philosophy giving me information to decide it’s not for me.
posted by hoyland at 6:40 PM on May 23, 2021

100% possible, actively happening.

So, this response is from an observer, with no real interest in the substance of subject (genuinely - fortunate enough to understand the substance is simply not a compliment to my personal chemistry, without ever needing to approach. Other interests are available, and it will never be an issue).

So, this: "I believe there is no such thing as a casual user of hard drugs. My opinion comes from personal experience and knowing many addicts in recovery." May be a very specified viewpoint, not that generational categorizers are concrete definitions of reality, but it's also a very Boomer/Gen X perspective. These are often perspectives developed during the, "war on drugs era," (not completely dissimilar to the Marijuana-logues era) Personally, I find the categorizer, "hard drugs," slowly dissolving as we approach more understanding of these substances and their role in our society and development.

This: "Spouse's opinion comes from graduate school where he took a counseling course on harm reduction," is actually closer, or more truthfully to form (ime (also referring to the actual opinion of the spouse). Interestingly, the textbook entry seems super neutral, and actually geared toward assisting others.

Usage and balance exist on a much larger scale than many people understand: Many people simply aren't saying anything.

Baseline: These are plant-derivatives, regardless of titles. No more, no less. They aren’t evil spirits. The basis of medicine developed from an innate curiosity and biological draw of homo-sapiens-sapiens to plants. In many cases, the draw to any* plant is this way. It’s how human beings develop a natural rapport with the environment. In some ways, demonizing these approaches also condemns a large area of history in the consideration of modern medicine. This is unnecessary.

I would say it's more critical to be skeptical of particularly difficult substances (crack, heroin, etcetera), those often much more difficult to regulate or control. Even heroin has select uses in medicine (some places are attempting to legalize in the US).

Natural psychedelics, MDMA, as well as cocaine, actually have decent societal implication, when not demonized, when approached acceptably. The MAPS program ( is an example of these roles or implications. Psychedelics are finding more ways to progress or receive recognition/legalization, as is MDMA. Marijuana (pejorative), now "Cannabis" (respectfully), is finally receiving more recognition for what it truly is and can do (in all honesty, it's probably helped a significant number of people, during the pandemic).

The substance in question seems much more visible within culturally common industries (media, film, music, etc - certainly paths in business, as well), where yes: People typically go about their day-to-day activity, and it actually isn't more than a supplement. This is why it's unnoticeable. Depending on the rural or urban area, it's presence may be particularly negative, or enough space and comfort may exist so that the usage is nearly indiscernible.

I think it can be valuable to review societal examples of a more critical, lighter heart in the matter: e.g. Italy, and the desensitization of alcohol to minors (which leads to less binging or erratic alcohol related deaths), or Portugal, and less binging or erratic usage overall (theoretically - these systems have their concerns, also)

However, if someone seems particularly burnt out (not taking care of themselves, not composed, difficulty maintaining or working - for this particular substance - extra thin, gaunt eyes, clearly overly dependent or using the substance as a vehicle or crutch in place of other activity or solutions), yes, perhaps the substance is a problem, but this may be more-so relative to other obscure issues, not the substance itself.

Alternative or explorative headspaces, when not demonized, can act as paths to less fear within society, as well as less anxiety or personally-relative fears to individuals.

If the US (the commonly mentioned, general "we" above, obviously not necessarily intended to all, but for the sake of this post) were to place more energy in other avenues, rather than needlessly demonizing these items in a senseless manner, we'd probably have a lot more self-discovery, and energy for other interests.

Additional pro-tip:
It is possible to attend many-a-party while saying, “Mm, no thank you, not tonight,” or, “already set for the evening!” or, “already there!” with a fake-it-to-make-it smile, that allows people to keep their vibe, and the deferrer to self-maintain. Not that I have ever done this or know what a party is. I am but a humble internet user.
posted by firstdaffodils at 6:49 PM on May 23, 2021 [1 favorite]

To compliment my extensive response, by and large, this is very accurate:

"And when they've taken a bump they're not gibbering hyperactive assholes trying to steal my wallet or anything. They're "gentlemen" (and gentlewomen) who are really enthusiastic about having me stick around for a couple more drinks and tell that funny story about how that one time that band did that thing."
posted by firstdaffodils at 11:42 PM on May 23, 2021 [1 favorite]

I have known quite a few casual users of criminalized 'hard drugs' like cocaine/heroin/meth. They used in a way that was recreational and intermittent and were able to walk away and didn't get into addiction behaviors. In my personal experience, this wasn't rare.
posted by quince at 10:59 AM on May 24, 2021 [1 favorite]

Best answer: It seriously depends on the individual's self-control and how their brain is wired toward addiction (or lack thereof).

I generally consider myself to have decent self-control... I would "want" something, but I would consider my finances and "need level" and decide I don't want it "bad enough". But I can also see some people who need stimulation constantly and when life doesn't provide enough, become an adrenaline junkie or drug addict to manage that "craving".

So to go back to your question, it is possible to be a "high-functioning user" that do some drugs but otherwise live a "healthy" life. But that's more due to that individual's non-addictive brain chemistry outmatched drug's addictiveness. And that means "they are not there, but they are the exception, not the norm".

One could also mention that Sherlock Holmes (the original) does occasionally use cocaine (7% solution, IIRC) to manage "boredom". (The Sign of Four)
posted by kschang at 11:47 AM on May 24, 2021

Your spouse is correct. Adding to the chorus, addiction is at least as social as it is chemical. Most people who try "hard drugs" don't get addicted to them. I have known both severe drug addicts and casual, occasional users of say, nose drugs, and the latter are a much bigger group.

(Also not to tone police but "like a gentleman" is perhaps not a phrase I'd use when talking about this, or really anything.)
posted by aspersioncast at 1:59 PM on May 24, 2021 [3 favorites]

Please don't forget Rat Park.
posted by firstdaffodils at 2:34 PM on May 24, 2021 [2 favorites]

The fact that you’re using terms like “hard drugs” instantly indicates to me that you are undereducated about drugs generally, probably judgmental, and not someone I would share any personal anecdotes about casual drug use should I have them. Nthing everyone else’s experience that yes, casual drug users exist. And that assuming something doesn’t exist because you don’t have personal experience with it is not a great way to live your life.
posted by jeoc at 4:57 AM on May 25, 2021 [1 favorite]

Let's include one more plug for Rat Park. (this can be condensed to the above, too)
posted by firstdaffodils at 6:02 PM on May 25, 2021

I know lots of people who use a variety of psychoactive substances recreationally, such as on weekends or special occasions, and without becoming dependent or suffering any negative repercussions in their lives. Those substances include cocaine, heroin, LSD, alcohol, PCP, marijuana, opioids, and hallucinogens.

Research shows that about 15-20% of drug users, of all types of psychoactive drugs, fall into the category of regular users who never use in a way that harms them or affects their lives. About half of people use a drug fewer than 10 times and never again. About 15% of people use routinely without negative consequences, but with occasional overindulgence (e.g., a hangover that causes them to miss a day of work). And about 15% become addicted and identify substance use as a problem for them. In other words, there are about twice as many people who use responsibly and never or rarely use to excess in a way that harms them as people whose use leads to substance use disorder.
posted by decathecting at 5:51 PM on May 26, 2021

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