Understanding Drug Abuse: 7 Reasons for Addiction

Osmosis Team
Dec 13, 2015

Given the prevalence of drug abuse, it is important to understand the underlying reasons for their behavior. Only understanding leads to practical steps like signing up for a drug rehab program to get help. Someone addicted to drugs is not rational about their addiction. They view their situation with distorted logic.

With that in mind, here are 7 reasons psychologists believe people take drugs:

  1. Getting relief from a mental disorder

There are a wide range of mood disorders that cause people to suffer. These range from neurotic to psychotic disorders. Drugs quickly stop these distressing thoughts and feelings. Someone, for example, with clinical depression will be able to feel happy for a short time.

Often, these mental illnesses go undiagnosed. Those who have them are afraid to tell others or visit a doctor to get help. Family and friends may dismiss signs of mental disorder as eccentricity. People with a mental disorder may use drugs as a form of self-medication.

  1. Blindly imitating negative role models

An insecure teenager or young adult may look up to role models for direction in their lives. These influential people help them develop a sense of identity. Role models may be parents or siblings. They may be relatives or friends. They may be famous actors, musicians, or comedians.

If these role models take drugs, it normalizes the idea of drug taking. When someone idolized by millions uses drugs, fans may follow their example.

  1. Quieting fears created by scarcity thinking 

Quiet desperation appears to be a part of modern life. Those with low incomes stress over the shortage of money in their lives. Ostensibly, they are just stressed over not being able to pay their bills. But behind that feeling is a deep fear of starving, losing what little they own, or becoming homeless.

People stuck in low income jobs are not clear on how to change their situation. These jobs often treat employees with disrespect and kill any initiative for self-improvement. People in this situation may seek drugs to relieve feelings of anger and helplessness.

Ironically, this scarcity thinking also extends to those who may have a good income. Many times, these are people who have worked their way up from nothing. Although they are now considered successful by society, they feel like frauds. They have a fear of losing everything and going back to the impoverished life they had just escaped. They often use drugs to improve their performance.

  1. Becoming addicted to prescriptions

A person may first begin taking drugs prescribed by a doctor. They may continue taking these drugs even if the doctor has taken them off the prescription.

Although the doctor has not approved of this extended use, a person finds ways to justify their abuse. Often addiction is due to a chemical dependency.

  1. Using drugs to mask post traumatic stress disorder

Many people experience extreme traumas like incest, rape, or assault and battery. Those who come back from a war are appalled at witnessing human cruelty on such a vast scale. They may feel guilt and shame over their own acts of violence.

Drugs are able to mask the effects of trauma. They offer a way to escape thoughts, feeling, and images that plague someone. They provide relief from distressing memories.

  1. Chasing a high through drugs

When people take drugs, they experience extreme pleasure. This joy is greater than anything else that they have ever experienced before. Drugs overload the brain’s pleasure centers. The chemically-stimulated brain secretes large amount of serotonin, dopamine, endorphins, and catecholamines.

Since there is nothing in normal life that comes close to this feeling of rapture, people crave drugs.

After the high, there are extremes lows, and since this is painful, there is a strong urge to get high again. Thus, someone gets caught in a cycle of highs and lows.

  1. Peer pressure

It’s extremely uncomfortable saying 'no' to what a peer group is doing. If the group is into alcohol or drugs, they disrespect those who don’t share their interests. To fit in, people compromise their values.

Logic And Rationality Is Not Enough

Drug abuse happens for psychological and physiological reasons. For healing to be effective, it has to address the real causes of drug addiction.