Recreational drugs

If you take recreational drugs it's important to know the facts - the more you know the better.

If you take recreational drugs it's important to know the facts - the more you know the better. Here you'll find some information about taking recreational drugs and how it can affect you and your asthma.

What are recreational drugs?

The term recreational drugs covers all drugs that are taken to alter your mood; some are legal and some illegal. Legal recreational drugs include alcohol and nicotine, whereas illegal drugs include cannabis, cocaine, ecstasy and mephedrone, amongst others. This information covers illegal drugs.

Drugs can be divided into three categories, based on their effects:

  • Stimulants: make you feel like you have lots of energy and confidence; these include cocaine, speed, ecstasy and mephedrone
  • Depressants: slow your body's responses, making you feel relaxed and chilled out; these include alcohol, cannabis, ketamine and heroin
  • Hallucinogens: cause you to see or sense things that aren't real; these include magic mushrooms and LSD.

Drugs can lead to problems with your physical and your mental health so it's important for you to know and understand how they can affect you.

The facts about drugs and asthma

  • Drugs can make your asthma worse, trigger symptoms and lower your mood (which can trigger your asthma).
  • Drugs can affect your asthma in ways you may not expect. For example, ecstasy or speed can make you feel more energetic so you may find yourself dancing longer. This increased activity may bring on asthma symptoms. Smoking cannabis can make you feel anxious, which can bring on asthma symptoms.
  • Research has shown that cocaine use (both snorted and smoked) can lead to much worse asthma symptoms and asthma attacks.
  • Smoking cigarettes and cannabis can trigger asthma symptoms and lead to long-term lung damage.
  • There are heavy penalties for possessing and supplying illegal drugs, even if you're giving them to a friend.
  • Beware of new psychoactive substances, formerly called 'legal highs'. Since May 2016 these have been covered by new drugs laws.
  • One danger with taking drugs is that it's impossible to know what other ingredients they may contain, and what effect these will have on your body.
  • Research has shown that taking recreational drugs means its more likely you'll miss taking your asthma medicine. It's really important that you take your asthma medicines as prescribed to get the protective effect, and that you have your reliever inhaler with you all the time.

Staying safe

It's always important to take care of yourself. If you plan to use other recreational drugs, make sure you consider the risks and stay as safe as possible. Remember:

  • Always take your reliever inhaler with you when you go out.
  • Make sure that you take your preventer inhaler every day, and as prescribed, and using the right inhaler technique to get the asthma medicines into your lungs.
  • Having a written asthma action plan will help you to understand your medicines and when to take them.
  • It's okay to say no to drugs.
  • If you're dancing all night try to take some time to rest at regular intervals.
  • Make sure you stay hydrated (drinking enough water or soft drinks).
  • Don't mix alcohol and drugs.

Getting help!

  • Don't keep your problems to yourself. It's good to talk.
  • A confidential helpline might be a good place to start, like Frank on 0800 77 66 00.
  • Many drug treatment services accept self-referrals so if you're not comfortable talking to your GP you may be able to approach your drug treatment service directly.
  • Your GP can also talk about your concerns with you, assess the nature of your problems and help you choose the most appropriate treatment or refer you to a local specialist drug service.

For more information, help and advice:

Helpline: 0800 77 66 00
Text: 82111
Open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year

NHS Choices

ADFAM: (Information and support for the families of drug and alcohol users)


Last updated May 2016

Next review due May 2019