Legal Recreational Drugs in the US

There are more legal recreational drugs in use in the United States than you might think. Some are completely legal and can even be bought by minors. Others are semi-legal, mainly because sale to minors is restricted. The definition of minor varies from state to state when it comes to abused substances, but in most states you need to be between 18 and 21 to purchase restricted substances.


Yes, alcohol is a drug – it is the most widely abused drug in the US. All states restrict the sale of alcohol to minors, but adults can buy it freely. Alcohol is a classified as an intoxicant, which makes it a drug. Some people can have a drink or two and go on about their business. For other people, once they take their first drink they become an alcoholic. Some people have addictive personalities, and this is thought to be genetic. This means that whenever they have one drink, their body automatically wants more. This usually leads to alcoholism.

The negative effects of alcohol have been known for a long time. The US government recognized this, and have tried prohibition. But while prohibition was a noble cause, it was impractical because of the widespread use of alcohol. So today alcohol is the most-abused legal recreational drug in the US.

Herbal Incense (Cannabanoids)

Herbal incense, ostensibly sold for aromatherapy uses, is also a widely abused substance. Many people smoke herbal incense by rolling it into cigarettes or smoking it in a special pipe or vaporizer. Herbal incense usually consists of a base, such as mullein leaf, sprayed with cannabanoids, which are actually synthetic cannabis or marijuana. The cannabanoids are the drug in herbal incense. Commonly known as research chemicals, they were developed in the 90’s by research chemists. It was not long before word got around that cannabanoids, when smoked, would produce a marijuana-like high.

The Federal Government has twice banned certain cannabanoids. Each time they do, the herbal incense makers come up with new formulas that get around the ban. Herbal incense is popular with young people and people that grew up smoking pot. It is usually sold in “head shops” that carry drug paraphernalia. Most head shops will not sell to minors, so herbal incense use is somewhat restricted as well. In fact, herbal incense could be classified as semi-legal as the many states and cities have banned its sale completely.


Yes, nicotine is a drug as well – it is a stimulant. The harmful effects are well-known. One reason most people do not think of nicotine as a drug as there is no “high” associated with it – it is simply an addictive habit. Like alcohol, its sale to minors is restricted, but adults can buy it freely. 1 in 3 people in the US still smoke cigarettes, making it the second most widely abused drug in the US.


Kratom, scientific name Mitragyna speciosa, is derived from the dried leaves of a plant in the coffee family. It has a sedative/pain-killing effect when ingested. Many people describe its effects as being similar to the prescription drug hydrocodone. It, like herbal incense, is usually sold in head shops or other places where they sell drug paraphernalia. There are no government restrictions on Kratom. Most places, however, will not sell it to minors. The drug is subject to abuse just like hydrocodone, and people do become addicted to it.

Solvents and Paint

Solvents, like glue, and spray paint have drugs in them that cause a “high” when inhaled. Unfortunately, these are the drugs of choice for many young people, because they are easy to obtain. Some states, counties, and cities restrict their sale to minors, but they are widely available. They are also some of the most dangerous legal recreational drugs. “Sniffing” glue has actually been shown in studies to kill brain cells.


As you can see, there are quite a few legal recreational drugs in use in the US. As time goes by, the Federal Government restricts or bans these drugs, but it usually take years for them to catch up with what is “going on on the street”. The main fact to remember about these drugs is that they can be abused, and that you can become addicted to them.

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