If you've ever witnessed a loved one struggle in the grip of addiction, it's likely you've asked yourself "why do people abuse drugs?" Substance abuse can manifest in any number of forms and can happen due to just as many different reasons. Each person's underlying triggers for addiction are different, but there are some common things that may cause them to begin abusing an addictive substance in the first place. These include:
The most commonly abused substances in the world are nicotine and alcohol, and yet both are legal. As they're both readily available, many people don't truly grasp how addictive they can be.
It's also legal to buy and use recreational marijuana in eight states in 2017. There is growing concern (1) about the availability of legal recreational marijuana as one of the major contributing causes of drug abuse among youths.
A report from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) (2) revealed that 22.2 million Americans aged 12 or older were current marijuana users in 2014. The report indicates that more adolescents use the substance than any other age group.
Many people believe that prescription medication is safe because it was prescribed by a doctor. The false believe leads people into abusing prescription drugs for recreational purposes, increasing the risk of developing physical dependency on the substance, or becoming addicted.
Prescription painkiller drugs like OxyContin can be equally as addictive as heroin. Likewise, prescription stimulant medications like Adderall or Ritalin can be just as addictive as cocaine.
Teenagers and young adults are most likely to be associated with peer pressure, but it can happen to anyone. Being surrounded by other people who are using drugs can make anyone feel pressured to join in and follow suit.
It's common for many people to start drinking alcohol or using drugs in an effort to escape from painful feelings, emotions, stresses or other problems. While they're under the influence of the substance they can temporarily forget about their problems and feel a little better for a short time. After a while they being to rely on the substance in order to keep feeling better, creating a downward spiral into addiction.
There is a distinct link between mental health conditions and substance abuse. Even in people who have not received an official diagnosis of mental illness or aren't receiving proper treatment, symptoms of some conditions can increase the chances of self-medicating with drugs or alcohol.
For example, people suffering with symptoms of anxiety or panic disorders may abuse drugs to ease the overwhelming emotions and fears. People with depression or post-traumatic stress disorder may also have a higher likelihood of self-medicating in an effort to artificially feel better for a short time.
Drugs and alcohol only provide temporary relief from symptoms, which causes many sufferers to increase the amount they take in order to try and keep symptoms at bay.
The self-destructive behaviors associated with addictive substance use are commonly linked with feelings of low self-esteem. The effects of taking drugs can make people feel more confident or can mask some of the self-loathing they feel about themselves for a short period of time.
The problem with taking drugs to temporarily prop up feelings of low self-esteem is that the person often feels even lower when the effects wear off. In an effort to recapture the false good feelings, the person continues taking more, hoping the effects of taking drugs will keep hiding how badly they feel about themselves.
If you ever find yourself asking 'why do people abuse drugs?' keep in mind that most of them simply want to change something about their lives that they don't feel able to control without help from drugs or alcohol.