Content Medically Reviewed by:
Dr. Patricia Sullivan, MD MPH
Substance abuse comes in many different forms and can happen for many different reasons. While every addiction is different, and the intensity can vary from substance to substance, there are some common reasons people may become addicted to a substance.
Nicotine and alcohol are examples of legal and loosely regulated legal drugs that have risk for addiction. The Worldwide number of deaths reported by the World Health Organization provides the grim data of 6 million deaths from tobacco use and 2.5 million deaths from harmful alcohol use. Usually, individuals develop a habit of smoking cigarettes that they pick up from people around them. Because alcohol consumption is a normal occurrence, there is the risk of addiction.
Some people think that because their doctors give them a prescription, their medication is safe to consume without consequences. Unfortunately, Opioid prescriptions are extremely addictive and can act as a gateway to other drugs, like fentanyl or heroin. 30% of emergency room admissions from prescription abuse involve opioid drugs. Addiction to prescription drugs is a very real thing.
Peer pressure causes people to d things they would normally not to impress friends or loved ones. It’s a way of seeking out the feeling of being valued by others. Receiving an invitation from a friend to come and party with drugs or alcohol can be difficult to turn down.
Many people who struggle with depression do not get proper treatment or diagnosis for this problem. Those struggling with depression tend to self-medicate to handle the symptoms of depression with alcohol, marijuana, cocaine, and various other mind-altering substances.
To Simply, Feel Good
Some people think that because their doctors give them a prescription, their medication is safe to consume without consequences. Unfortunately, Opioid prescriptions are extremely addictive and can act as a gateway to other drugs, like fentanyl or heroin. 30% of emergency room admissions from prescription abuse involve opioid drugs.
Prescription drugs, nicotine, and alcohol are easy to acquire because they are readily available. Raising a person’s medicine cabinet or running to the store for a pack and a bottle of vodka is the quickest way to develop a life-consuming addiction. It’s very important for prescribed narcotic medication to be out of reach of individuals who are not prescribed them.
In many cases, substances like alcohol, marijuana, and prescription painkillers act as a gateway to drugs with a more intense and mind-altering effect. Currently, the opioid epidemic is forcing people to turn to street drugs, like meth or heroin, when their doctor stops writing refills for their prescriptions.
Mind-altering substances, like cocaine and alcohol, promise a heightened euphoric experience, and to some, that experience is worth exploring despite the risks. Unfortunately, drugs like heroin, ecstasy, and meth, which are so addictive that the person will begin a pattern of abuse, can eventually lead to an addiction.
Self-Medicating is one of the top reasons that people abuse drugs and alcohol. Self-medication can stem from stress, anxiety, undiagnosed mental illness, severe depression, loneliness, and trauma. These reasons and sometimes more than one of these reasons can easily lead a person to begin using drugs and alcohol to cope.