Weekend Drug Use May Be More Serious Than You Think, Study Says

More than half of people studied went from weekend-only to more frequent use in only six months.

If you’ve ever described your drug use as purely “social,” perhaps it’s time to rethink your weekend.

In a new report, Boston University’s School of Public Health and School of Medicine found that weekend drug use can often evolve into a full-on habit. In other words, weekend partying is a gateway drug for abuse.

While the results of the study may be somewhat intuitive, the rates at which weekend use became habitual were high. At the beginning of the study, of the 483 Boston Medical Center patients who self-reported weekend drug use—mainly marijuana, cocaine, or opioids—54 percent were using drugs more frequently just six months later. Only 19.4 percent had stuck to weekend-only use.

In the study, lead author Judith Bernstein writes that doctors shouldn’t view occasional drug use as mainly harmless behavior:

These findings suggest the importance of periodic monitoring of “recreational” drug use. A single-question standardized screen can be used to elicit necessary information.

The idea of asking only one question in an examination ties into research the university did last year. In that study, researchers found that posing a single question about drug or alcohol use—asking how many times in the past year the patient had consumed more than four or five drinks (for women and men, respectively) in one day or used an illegal or unprescribed drug—accurately illustrated substance abuse issues in the majority of cases.

The two studies taken together underscore the importance of routine drug and alcohol screenings by physicians, even when a patient doesn’t immediately appear to have a problem. As Bernstein says in the most recent study, doctors should exercise “caution in accepting recreational drug use as reassuring.”