Top 10 Reasons Why People Abuse Drugs [Guide 2023]

Substance abuse comes in many forms and can happen for many reasons. While every addiction is different, and the intensity can vary from substance to substance, some common reasons people may become addicted to a substance.

Table of Contents

The Complexity and Pervasiveness of Drug Use

Drug use is a multifaceted issue that transcends age, gender, culture, and socioeconomic status. From seemingly harmless substances like alcohol and nicotine to highly addictive drugs like opioids and methamphetamines, the range of substances and their potential for abuse is vast. The reasons behind drug use are equally complex, with individuals often driven by a combination of factors that can include genetics, environmental influences, and personal circumstances.

The pervasiveness of drug use is evident in its global impact. According to the World Health Organization, nearly 275 million people worldwide used drugs at least once in 2020, and around 35.6 million people suffered from drug use disorders. These staggering numbers demonstrate the widespread nature of drug use and its consequences on individuals, families, and communities.

The Importance of Understanding the Reasons Behind Drug Use

To effectively address the issue of drug use, it is crucial to understand the underlying reasons that drive people to turn to substances. By identifying the factors that contribute to drug use, we can develop targeted prevention and intervention strategies that address the root causes of addiction. Furthermore, understanding these reasons fosters empathy and compassion for those affected by drug use, which is essential in breaking the stigma surrounding addiction and promoting a supportive environment for recovery.

1. Legality Equals Accessibility

Nicotine and alcohol are examples of legal and loosely regulated legal drugs that have a 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 a risk of addiction. Prescription drugs are also technically legal and create addiction and dependence.

2. Prescription Drugs

Prescription drugs can lead to drug abuse. It’s very common for people to 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.

3. Fitting In

Peer pressure causes people to do 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.

Fitting in can especially be a reason among young teens and adults. Unfortunately, drug use happens in all types of socioeconomic situations. 

Wanting to feel liked and loved by family and friends is a huge reason people start doing drugs. Remember, if drugs are a normal part of the environment, it doesn’t seem abnormal to do them.

4. Depression

Depression is a common mental health diagnosis in the United States. Since depression is notoriously difficult to treat for some, many people seek temporary and instant relief provided by drugs or alcohol.

On top of that, many people who struggle with depression do not get proper treatment or diagnosis. Some people who have depression have no idea they suffer from it. 

It makes sense that those struggling with depression tend to self-medicate to handle the symptoms of depression with alcohol, marijuana, cocaine, and other mind-altering substances.

5. To Feel Good

While other reasons behind doing drugs can be especially complex, this one is pretty straightforward. Drugs cause chemical reactions to be released within our brain that mimic feelings of happiness, euphoria, and comfort.

Many people use drugs to feel good (at least at first). Usually, after addiction sets in, the drugs and alcohol cease to produce warm and fuzzy feelings as the drug has artificially altered brain chemistry.

6. Availability

If the urge to experiment or try drugs for the first time comes up, availability has a lot to do with why people abuse. 

For some, experimentation with drugs is incredibly tempting. If the person has the drugs available to them close by, it removes obstacles that otherwise could prevent addiction.

For example, prescription drugs, nicotine, and alcohol are easy to acquire because they are readily available. 

Raiding 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. 

Prescribed narcotic medication needs to be out of the reach of other individuals.

7. Gateway

In many cases, substances like alcohol, marijuana, and prescription painkillers act as a drug gateway with a more intense and mind-altering effect. 

The chase for euphoric feelings can cause users to seek harder drugs.

 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.

8. Experimenting

Mind-altering substances, like cocaine and alcohol, promise a heightened euphoric experience; to some, that experience is worth exploring despite the risks. 

Unfortunately, drugs like heroin, ecstasy, and meth are extremely addictive, and the person may likely begin a pattern of abuse, which can eventually lead to an addiction. 

Behind experimentation lies curiosity about how a certain drug might make them feel or enhance other activities. 

Teens and young adults are known for experimenting with drugs, and now more than ever, it’s become a more common part of growing up. 

The problem with drug experimentation today is far more dangerous than it used to be.

Strong opioids like fentanyl are becoming popular, causing a heightened number of drug overdoses.  

9. Self Medicating

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, can easily lead a person to use drugs and alcohol to cope.

10. Anxiety or Social Anxiety

Navigating life with anxiety can be very difficult. It makes sense that a person would want to attempt to lessen anxiety’s effects on the mind and body. 

Many people turn to substances as a way to deal with their anxiety. The types of anxiety disorders vary, and each has its characteristics. For example, social anxiety greatly affects how a person interacts and socializes with others. Some substances make it easier to let down your guard and lessen inhibitions.

Updated: 3/16/2023

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