Get help today 888-509-8965 or sign up for 24/7 text support.
American Addiction Centers National Rehabs Directory

What Would You Give Up For Recreational Drugs?

Using drugs changes the way we see things – they can alter our senses and manipulate our mood. But recreational drug use can also change how we view other things we hold dear. When people begin to use drugs, sacrifices need to be made. Whether the sacrifice is your health, job, or family and friends, addiction can make drugs seem worth the loss. Those with an addiction are not the only ones to give these things up, though. Recreational drug users are also willing to give up more than you may think.

We asked over 1,000 Americans about their drug use and what they would or would not give up in order to continue using stimulants like cocaine or opioids like OxyContin. How many people would rather use drugs such as cannabis than ever taste coffee again? How many would be willing to lose a loved one to be able to use drugs like hallucinogens or depressants for the rest of their own life? Keep reading to find out.

Would You Rather?

In a country where fast food and social media have become part of our culture, it may be shocking to hear how many people would give up those guilty pleasures for an entire year just to continue using drugs. The fast-food industry serves around 50 million Americans every single day, but when asked to choose between a drive-thru or drugs, 58 percent of recreational users would say goodbye to fast food for a year.

Social media was also among the top three things users would give up – 44 percent chose to continue using drugs over Facebook, Twitter, and other social media services. Some would say this sacrifice is just giving up one addiction to satisfy another.

Having to give something up may be easier when you know it’s only for a year, so what would users give up for life? One frightening statistic we found was that 16 percent indicated they would be OK with a stranger losing his or her life (if it meant they could continue their use). While the majority wouldn’t sacrifice a human life, more users would rather have a stranger die than give up their pet (11 percent) or lose a finger (10 percent). Some would also rather live the rest of their life without a close friend or family member or lose their ability to walk, hear, or see – all to continue using recreational drugs.

Sacrifice for Substance

Choices, choices, and more choices. Like almost everyone else, recreational drug users may find themselves in a situation where they have to forgo one pleasure for another.

When asked to choose something they would give up for at least a year, over half of the casual drug users we surveyed named fast food. In fact, sixty percent of those taking some form of depressant had no problem shoving a Big Mac meal to the side. Interestingly, 56 percent of marijuana users said the same.

Believe it or not, social media was next on the list of things recreational users indicated they would give up. Social scientists are now treating our increasing dependence on social media as an “addiction.” Nonetheless, forty-eight percent of stimulant users would have no problem shutting down their Snapchat and Instagram accounts.

Plus or minus a few percentage points, about a third of recreational users would stop doing the main activity listed that delivers health benefits, exercising. Experts do warn, however, that drug use immediately before or during exercise can be dangerous and should be avoided.

When it came to sacrifices to guarantee a lifetime supply of a user’s preferred substance, things became especially dubious. Twenty-three percent of casual opioid users would sacrifice a stranger’s life for a lifetime of continued substance use, while 17 percent of the same users would allow a finger to be removed.

Frequent Forfeits

As a user’s frequency rises, so too does their need for the drug. When drugs become a “necessity,” users are more likely to make sacrifices. This was likely why frequent users of opioids were even more likely to give up fast food, exercise, and sex compared to users who didn’t use as often.

Of the differences in sacrifices between casual and habitual drug users, the one that stood out the most was sex. For casual drug users, those saying they would do without sex was relatively low, ranging from 11 to 17 percent. Almost twice the percentage (23 to 33 percent) of habitual drug users were willing to replace the pleasures of sexual activity for their drug of choice.

Similarly, people who frequently used cannabis (18 percent), stimulants (21 percent), depressants (24 percent), hallucinogens (24 percent), and opioids (31 percent) were all more likely to sacrifice a stranger’s life in order to continue their use compared to more casual users of the same drugs.

High on Life

Among recreational users, 20 percent reported that they would end a relationship with a partner who didn’t approve of their drug use. A slightly smaller percentage would actually miss out on their favorite music festival (and their favorite drug of choice) to continue using.

Privacy and security of our electronic devices and social media platforms are a huge issue these days. So much so that Facebook, Google, Twitter, and others have taken an incredible amount of heat for having lax security features that can allow others to access valuable data. However, almost three-quarters of recreational users of hallucinogens would choose their drug over a secure, hack-free cellphone.

Lastly, anywhere from a quarter to a third of occasional users would prefer their high to a better paying job.

Diplomatic Drugs

Politics and religion (and in this case, drugs and politics) normally don’t mix. But when it came to affecting things at a government level, some drug users would quit to have it their way.

Seventy-three percent of Democrats who use opioids recreationally would stop using to ensure Donald Trump could not be re-elected as president. Interestingly, a third of Republican and Independent stimulant users agreed.

Another half of Republican stimulant users, however, would give up recreational drugs if it meant the media would stop writing negative things about Donald Trump. Forty percent of Libertarians who use opioids as their drug of choice would also make this exchange.

Quit Pot for Politics

Cannabis users, both Democrat and Republican, felt even stronger about their respective party positions.

Sixty-nine percent of cannabis-using Democrats would never use again if it would bar Donald Trump from re-election. This decision is likely rooted in user’s political affiliation, rather than the legality of marijuana, though. While the drug has not been made legal across the U.S., many states have begun to loosen their laws and opinions are changing – including Trump’s.

Price of Sobriety

Of the recreational drug users we surveyed, it would take an average of over $37,000 to forgo drugs for a twelve-month period. But what about giving up drugs for a lifetime? As expected, the price skyrocketed to just over a half-million dollars.

Coming Down to Reality

Making the decision to choose drugs over things you enjoy and even the people you love may be a sign of a bigger problem. As frequency increases, so too does tolerance. Starting down the path of drug use can lead to a full-blown addiction – one that has the ability to harm not only yourself but friends and family as well.

Participation in joyful activities, your career, and even your relationships don’t have to end because of substance use. If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction, there is help. At, we have all the resources and information you need to learn about misuse and addiction and to find the help you need to get (and stay) clean. To learn more, visit us online today.


We collected 1,005 responses from recreational drug users. Users were then asked to choose their preferred drugs and were allowed to select more than one option. 849 people said they used cannabis, 152 said stimulants, 144 said depressants, 127 said hallucinogens, and 117 respondents reported opioids as their drug of choice. Respondents reported their political affiliation as follows: Forty-seven percent were Democrats, 24 percent were Independents, 4 percent were Libertarian and 22 percent were Republicans. Forty-six percent of respondents identified as female, and 54 percent identified as male. Participants ranged in age from 18 to 73 with an average age of 32.8 and a standard deviation of 9.5.

We defined recreational drugs in this context as the following: cannabis (e.g., marijuana and hashish), hallucinogens (e.g., LSD and salvia), stimulants (e.g., ecstasy and cocaine), depressants (e.g., benzodiazepines and Xanax), and opioids (e.g., codeine and OxyContin). We excluded inhalants (e.g., aerosol sprays and paint fumes) and dissociatives (e.g., ketamine and PCP) due to small sample sizes in our survey.


The data we are presenting on drug use and sacrifices rely on self-report. There are a number of issues with self-reported data, including, but not limited to the following: selective memory, telescoping, attribution, and exaggeration. Hypotheses were not statistically tested.

Fair Use Statement

Do you find this data on recreational drug use and decisions noteworthy and want to share it with others? The graphics and information found here are available for noncommercial reuse only. Feel free to share it as much as you’d like, just make sure you link back to this page.

Was this page helpful?
Thank you for your feedback.

American Addiction Centers (AAC) is committed to delivering original, truthful, accurate, unbiased, and medically current information. We strive to create content that is clear, concise, and easy to understand.

Read our full editorial policy

While we are unable to respond to your feedback directly, we'll use this information to improve our online help.