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Why do people abuse drugs? This is a good question to ask, especially considering that some people mistakenly believe that those who take these intoxicating and mind altering substances lack willpower and moral principles, and that they can stop abusing drugs by simply choosing to do so.
In reality, however, drug use and addiction are complex conditions. Quitting, on the other hand, will usually take more than a strong will or good intentions. This is because drugs can change your brain in ways that will make it hard for you to quit - even if you would like to.
Luckily, recent study findings now provide a wealth of information about drugs, their effects on the brain, and the different treatments that can be used to help addicts recover from their condition and go on to lead meaningful and productive lives.
Drug abuse and addiction are chronic conditions typically characterized by compulsive substance seeking and use. This habit is usually difficult to control - even in spite of the harmful consequences and adverse effects that it causes.
One of the common answers given to the "why do people abuse drugs?" question is that such substance abuse starts out voluntarily. Eventually, however, repeating the habit can cause some intense changes to your brain, as well as to its function and makeup. These changes may eventually challenge your self-control, decision making, and ability to resist the urge to continue taking drugs.
In many cases, the brain changes arising from continued drug use tend to be persistent. This is one of the many reasons why addiction is now considered to be a relapsing condition. In fact, people who are in recovery and treatment for drug use will still face a heightened risk of returning to their old habits - even after they have stayed for years without taking their preferred drugs and alcohol.
Although relapse is a common aspect of ongoing recovery after addiction, it does not necessarily mean that treatment and rehabilitation do not work. In fact, addiction is like any other chronic health condition in the sense that you should continue taking treatment on an ongoing basis. The treatment plans should also be adjusted depending on your continued progress and response. This is why most rehab facilities review their treatment plans and modify them to fit the changing needs of their patients.
While looking for answers to the "why do people abuse drugs?" question, it is essential that you try to understand how drugs affect the brain. In particular, intoxicating and psychotic substances tend to affect the reward circuit of the brain.
They do this by flooding this circuit with dopamine - a chemical messenger. This reward system is responsible for controlling the ability of the body to experience pleasure and provide motivation for you to repeat the behaviors that are crucial to your survival and thriving - such as spending time with your loved ones, eating, and procreating.
Since drugs overstimulate this reward circuit, they effectively cause the intensely happy and pleasureable high that can cause you to continue taking these substances over and over again.
However, as you continue using drugs, your brain may start adjusting in response to the excess production and availability of dopamine. As a direct result, it will make less of this chemical messenger.
Similarly, the ability of reward circuit cells to respond to dopamine will also be reduced. The result is that the high you feel after taking drugs will be reduced in a process referred to as tolerance.
In response to this change, you might feel the urge to start taking higher doses of your preferred drugs - or to use more frequently - while trying to recreate the initial high you felt when you first started using these substance. Tolerance may additionally cause you to start deriving less pleasure from the things that you used to enjoy - such as social activities and eating.
In the long term, using drugs could also cause intense changes to many other brain circuits and chemicals systems. These changes may affect the following functions:
In spite of these adverse outcomes, however, most people who abuse intoxicating and mind altering substances will still continue taking them. This is one of the natures of addiction that many rehabilitation and treatment centers try to change.
But what are some of the reasons why some people develop addictions while others do not? Essentially, no single factor can be used to predict your ability to develop an addiction to alcohol and drugs. Instead, there are many different factors that could increase your risk for substance abuse. As such, the more of these risk factors apply to you, the greater your chances of becoming addicted if you try using drugs.
These factors include:
Your gene account for about 50% of your risk for substance addiction. Other biological factors that could contribute to this risk include ethnicity, gender, and the presence of mental disorders.
In many instances, environmental and genetic facts will interact with the crucial developmental stages in your life to either increase or reduce your risk of addiction. Even though taking alcohol and drugs at any age could potentially cause you to develop addiction, the earlier you start using the easier it might be for you to progress faster to addiction.
In particular, developmental factors affect teens the most. This is because for most adolescents the areas of the brain that are responsible for controlling judgement, decision making, and self-control are still under development. As such, teens are particularly prone to such risky behaviors as substance abuse and drug experimentation.
Last but to least, your environment may affect your risk of developing a drug use problem. Environment, in this case, covers a variety of influences - including but not limited to quality of life, economic status, friends, and family.
To this end, factors such as stress, parental guidance, early exposure to mind altering substances, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, psychological abuse, physical abuse, and peer pressure may all affect your likelihood of starting to abuse drugs and developing an addiction.
Drug use and addiction are like other chronic diseases such as heart disease, asthma, and diabetes in the sense that treatment isn't always a certain cure. However, you can still receive treatment for addiction and get the condition managed successfully.
While recovering from a substance use disorder, therefore, it is highly likely that you will still have a risk of relapse for several years. In some cases, this risk might continue over the course of your entire life.
Research now shows that the best way to improve your chances of success is by undergoing treatment that combines medications with a variety of behavioral therapies. The treatment approach should also be tailored to your patterns of drug use, as well as for the management of any co-occurring mental, social, and medical problems. This way, you may enjoy a better shot at ongoing recovery in the long term.
The best news, however, is that both substance abuse and addiction can be prevented. According to recent research funded by NIDA (abbreviation for the National Institute on Drug Abuse), it is now clear that prevention programs that involve communities, the media, schools, and families are highly effective at reducing and preventing these conditions.
Even though cultural factors and personal events continue affecting the trends of drug abuse, many research studies have discovered that when young people - especially teens - view substance abuse as harmful and useless, they have a higher chance of not becoming involved with these habits - or decreasing them if they have already started using.
To this end, it is clear that outreach and education are effective in helping people with a high risk of substance use to understand the potential risks of these habits. Additionally, health care providers, parents, and teachers all have crucial roles to play in educating the young about drug abuse and preventing addiction.
Drug abuse is a real and ongoing problem in various parts of the United States. Not only does it cause suffering and pain for those who are directly involved in it, it also affects everyone around the drug use and society at large.
In spite of continued attempts to completely eradicate alcohol and drug abuse, there are still no signs that the problems are abating. As such, you should understand that this habit is a complex problem - one that is largely affected by the many reasons that answer the "why do people abuse drugs?" question.
To this end, it is imperative that key stakeholders and at risk populations consider and understand these reasons - otherwise it might be difficult to tackle the problem once and for all.
In effect, therefore, substance abuse can be defined as a pattern of harmful behaviors where people continue using mind altering and intoxicating substances to such an extent that they suffer adverse effects.
According to DSM-IV - or the 4th edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual - substance abuse refers to:
As such, you need to only meet one of these criteria within the past year for you to be considered to be an active drug user. That said, people use a wide variety of intoxicating substances, including but not limited to:
But how are substance abuse and addiction interlinked? Essentially, addiction is a condition that is classified according to the psychological and physical dependence you have developed to an intoxicating substance.
However, not everyone who abuses drugs will develop addiction. This means that they might not get to a point where they start suffering intense withdrawal symptoms when they decide to stop taking drugs or reduce the dose that they have become accustomed to.
For most people who abuse drugs, continued use often increases the risk of developing a full addiction. If you reach the stage where you are physically dependent on your drug of choice, therefore, you might find it harder to quit. In some cases, you might even lose your life as a result of your ongoing drug use.
If you have not yet developed an addiction, however, you might still be able to escape without receiving much help from a professional rehabilitation and treatment program. All you need to do is learn about the various dangers and harmful effects linked to substance abuse with a view to motivate yourself to start changing your ways.
So, exactly why do people abuse drugs? Essentially, there are many common reasons why people start using intoxicating and mind altering substances. These reasons include but are not always limited to:
In the following sections, you will find more in-depth answers to the "why do people abuse drugs?" question:
In the past, addiction treatment professionals focused more on the behaviors of substance users than on their everyday environment. Today, this is no longer the case.
In fact, new research studies have discovered that people who come from particular environments might be more predisposed to turn to drug and alcohol abuse. For instance, if you grew up in a dysfunctional household, you might turn to this activity as a coping mechanism.
Additionally, the fact that drug use is often portrayed and sometimes even glorified in movies, TV, and the mass media also plays a crucial part in changing the environment and coercing some people to start using.
In the same way, if you come from an impoverished neighborhood, you might resort to alcohol and drugs while responding to the inherent lack of self-affirming and productive opportunities for progress in your life.
In particular, many inner cities are rife with crime. As such, people who live there may turn to drug abuse while trying to make sense of their lives and to deal with the ongoing stress derived from their environment.
In some situations, you might find that there are life circumstances - especially if you are young - that could act as risk factors and not automatic causes of substance abuse.
Parental neglect and abuse, in particular, has been attributed to causing drug use. When this happens, the pre-adolescent user or teen might be trying to attract the attention of their inattentive parents by resorting to drugs. Alternatively, they could turn to these intoxicating substances to allow them to escape - albeit temporarily - an abusive family situation.
In the same way, if there are drug users or if drugs are available in the home environment, they could lead to substance abuse among those living there.
Additional risk factors related to the environment that could cause you to start abusing drugs include:
Some additional environmental factors that could contribute to your risk of abusing drugs include:
If a child attends a school that does not have any strict rules that ban substance abuse, they might find themselves being involved in the wrong crowd. Eventually, this involve them could introduce them to substance abuse.
When parents do not make it clear that they are against drugs and alcohol or if they fail to take action when they catch their children with mind altering and intoxicating substances, it is highly likely that these children will start or continue using drugs. This is because they will feel that their parents do not have a problem with substance abuse.
When people hang out with others who use intoxicating drugs - especially during their formative years in the pre-teen and teenage stages - they might run the risk of getting introduced to these harmful habits.
To this end, you must be strict about the people your children associate with. Failure to do this could see them spending time with negative influences that could compel them to start using.
If you are not overly concerned about the goings on in your child's life, they might join the wrong crowd and get introduced to drugs and alcohol. When you come to realize that your child has started using, it may be too late to doing anything - especially if they overdose and lose their lives as a result of these substances (a likely occurrence in cases of underage drug and alcohol abuse).
When children have poor relationships with other members of their family - their parents in particular - they might confide in any one who is willing to listen. Unfortunately, these confidants could try and introduce them to drugs as a gesture of help.
People are heavily influenced by others around them. As a direct, this influence may play an important role in compelling some of them to start abusing drugs. In particular, you might feel pressured to fit in with those you spend your time with. In fact, it takes a great deal of self-esteem and knowledge for you to withstand any peer pressure to start using.
This social influence is particularly strong for teens - but it can still continue exerting its influence all though life. Recent research studies have even shown that most young people and teens start using mind altering and intoxicating substances simply because their friends persuaded them to. This is despite the fact that some people tend to be more susceptible to societal pressure than others.
According to the social learning theory, drug abuse and addiction are learned behaviors. This theory is based on the fact that human being learn by observing others. Therefore, if you get to a point where you notice that those who use drugs seem to enjoy more than others, you might be encouraged to try them out.
One of the many reasons why people abuse drugs is so that they can try to self-medicate existing mental health issues. If you are among these people, you might either be unaware or fully aware of your problem. However, you will still feel that your life is not going on as it should.
In particular, people who suffer from conditions like anxiety and depression might discover that turning to drugs and alcohol provides some sort of temporary relief. Although this approach might seem to provide respite in the short term, it will prove problematic in the future when your ongoing drug abuse turns into addiction. Eventually, you may find that you suffer a dual diagnosis as a result of your initial attempts at self-medication. This means that you will have both the pre-existing mental health condition as well as addiction on top of it.
Even so, people who abuse drugs can get to a point where they start developing mental health issues as a result. In many cases, when this happens, it might encourage them to just escalate their substance abuse.
According to recent research, some personality types seem to have a higher likelihood of being particularly susceptible to substance abuse. Addictive personalities are similar according to the characteristics that some people share.
However, this is not to mean that every drug user has these traits. Even so, they all seem to have a higher likelihood of sharing these characteristics - more so that members of the general population.
Some of the traits that describe an additive personality include but are not limited to:
William Glasser, an American psychologist, worked on and developed choice theory. This theory is based on the idea that some behaviors are as a result of choice - including substance abuse.
As an individual, you might think that abusing drugs might improve your quality of life. Therefore, you may be naturally inclined to get involved with this behavior - even if you are aware of the adverse consequences that come from this harmful choice.
Although many people make a conscious choice to use intoxicating and mind altering substances, only a very small percentage will abuse these drugs. Still, it has been discovered that substance abuse is a function of genetics - which is one of the reasons why it tends to run in families. This suggests that genetics could be one of the crucial risk factors that cause some people to abuse drugs while others do not.
Even so, you can be sure that even though the fact that your parents abuse alcohol and drugs could put you at heightened risk of learning these behaviors, it is still possible for you to grow up and never abuse these substances.
Conversely, it is also possible for you to start abusing drugs even if no one else in your family does. As such, you can be sure that genetics - in and of itself - is not the only cause of substance abuse.
In many cases, drug use disorders often occur alongside many other conditions - mental illness in particular. Although mental illness - in and of itself - is not considered to be the main cause of substance abuse, this condition might increase your risk of starting to use drugs. Both conditions often complicate each other - especially when they occur.
In particular, you might repeatedly use drugs to achieve intoxicating and mind altering effects that could provide you with a way to escape your mental health condition - such as a depressive mood.
In such a case, the depressive mood cannot be considered to cause the substance use disorder - rather, it will contribute to it. However, it is currently known that not everyone who has a mental illness will automatically start and continue abusing drugs. As such, mental illness alone cannot be considered to be the main cause of substance abuse.
Intoxicating and mind altering drugs are usually a topic of conversation. This is because many people have acquaintances, family, and friends who use these substances.
Since curiosity is a primary human trait, some people - young people in particular - might be capitalize on this curiosity to try out drugs while attempting to find out how they will feel while intoxicated.
This could contribute to their ongoing substance abuse - especially if they realize that the intoxicating effects they derived from drugs are pleasurable, make them feel happy, and provide them with a release from the stresses and monotony of daily life.
In many societies, the use of substances like alcohol and drugs is part and parcel of religious, cultural, social, and family celebrations and practices - such as at gatherings and parties.
In all of these situations, drugs tend to be more acceptable - alcohol in particular. Therefore, some people might start experimenting during celebrations before they eventually discover just how problematic and harmful such drug use is.
The media has been glorifying the use of drugs and alcohol. To be more specific, these substances are widely shown in television programs, films, events, magazines, and advertisements all around the United States.
These messages from the mass media effectively affect the perceptions of the general population - even if this effect happens subconsciously. Eventually, some people might start abusing drugs because they saw such use being promoted as a relaxing and social activity, as a route to productivity and success, or even as ways to lose weight.
Some people might start using drugs because of the pleasurable feelings they derive as a result. In the long run, this might cause the user to feel that these intoxicating and mind altering substances affect their lives in positive ways.
For most people, this pleasure is typically pegged on the high, the euphoria, the general lack and loss of inhibitions, the pain relief, the increased energy and better concentration, as well as the ability to stay awake or fall asleep.
Among the answers to the "why do people abuse drugs" question is the fact that some might start using to relieve some of their emotional problems. These emotional issues include, but are not entirely limited to, depression, boredom, tension, anxiety, stress, and anger.
When people start using drugs as a result of these reasons, it becomes easier for them to continue with the habit. With time, however, they might find that the drugs are causing effects that may be more adverse that the emotional problems they were trying to solve. For instance, they may develop dependence and addiction - conditions that could lead to further emotional issues.
Others might start using because of their low self-esteem. This is because drugs could make them feel better about themselves. The young, in particular, get involved with drugs while trying to rebel or separate themselves from society.
On the other hand, if you have experienced traumatic events, you may turn to intoxicating substances especially if you believe that they are the best way to help you cope with your confusing feelings.
In some situations, the social pressure to use alcohol and drugs is quite powerful. Some people, for instance, might start feeling that they need to drink alcohol or use drugs every time they spend the night out in the town, for fun, or while attending gatherings and parties.
In the same way, young people who grow up in households with other substance abusers might start using as a result of the social pressure they feel in such an environment.
Apart from the above, there are social groups in which drugs and alcohol are made to seem trendy and fashionable. If you get involved in such a group, you might start using as a way to belong - especially if those who choose to abstain are excluded.
Over and above everything else, your need to fit in and comfort to your society might pressure you to use drugs - even if you understand the various consequences and harmful impact of substance abuse.
Apart from the above reasons, some people might start using drugs as a result of their previous involvement with them. This is why research studies now agree that trying any intoxicating and mind altering substance for the very first time will typically change your life forever.
To explain further, one time experimentation might not always mean that you will automatically develop an addiction - unless this experimentation involves some of the most powerful drugs available on the market today. However, it could potentially remove some of the barriers that caused you to abstain in the past.
This is why people who use drugs on a regular basis have a higher likelihood of using and trying other mind altering substances. Those who drink alcohol and smoke tobacco or marijuana during their teens are especially prone to start using other drugs and developing addiction problems later on in their lives.
In some cases, you might use drugs simply because you have developed a dependence on them. This chemical dependence might either be psychological or physical.
Either way, you can be sure that almost every intoxicating substance is addicting and can cause you to develop a dependence - even though some are more addictive than others.
Using these substances on a regular basis, therefore, could cause you to build tolerance to them. Eventually, you will form an addiction. As a direct result, you may continue using - even if you decide to quit.
The only way to overcome this situation is by receiving help through an accredited addiction treatment and rehabilitation program. Through such treatment and therapy, you will get the assistance to recover your life so that you no longer need to use your preferred drugs of abuse.
There are many other factors that could contribute to compelling you to try drugs. All these factors tend to result in a substance use disorder. In particular, some of these factors will have less to do with you as an individual and more to do with the substances themselves.
For instance, drugs like benzodiazepines have a higher likelihood of compelling you to abuse them - especially if you continue using them over the long term. According to NIDA, research now shows that this class of drugs (also known as benzos) disrupt the dopamine production and re-absorption system. As a direct result, they may cause you to start abusing them over time.
It is for this express reason that medical experts now recommend that patients only use such drugs for a short period before stopping. Even so, some doctors might not be aware of the existence of this problem. As such, they may end up prescribing such drugs over the long term.
Eventually, you might find that you have started abusing the drugs as a result of developing tolerance and dependence on them. This is a particularly dangerous situation because of the adverse effects that might arise when you misuse prescription drugs by increasing the dosage or frequency of use.
Alcohol and nicotine are legal substances - even though they are both mind altering and intoxicating. The government also regulates them to prevent addiction, although this form of regulation is quite lose.
This is despite the fact that more than 88000 Americans lose their lives every year as a result of alcohol-related causes - which makes alcohol the 3rd leading cause of preventable death in the country.
Due to the legality of these substances, therefore, some people might start abusing them simply because they can purchase them without a valid license or prescription from a doctor.
In some situations, you might think that just because your doctor has given you a prescription it means that the medication is safe and that you can consume it without suffering any adverse effects or harmful consequences.
However, this is far from the truth. Opiate based prescription medications, in particular, have a high risk of leading to abuse, dependence, tolerance, and addiction.
If you abuse these prescription medications, therefore, you might eventually find yourself abusing other dangerous drugs like heroin - especially those that are cheaper and do not require a doctor's prescription to obtain.
Today, the problem of prescription drug abuse is so rife - particular with regards to drugs that are based on opioids. In fact, more than 30% of all admissions to emergency rooms are linked to these opiate-based prescription drugs.
While trying to find answers to the "why do people abuse drugs?" question, you should keep in mind that most people who develop an addiction to recreational drugs like heroin, marijuana, cocaine, and speed start using them while experimenting.
Experimenting with these recreational drugs is usually a part of growing up for people - especially teens. However, it is increasingly becoming more common even among adults.
While you are still in the experimental stage, you might not think that you will develop tolerance, dependence, and addiction. In many cases, in fact, recreational use might not automatically give way to active substance abuse.
That said, people have a variety of reasons for experimenting with these drugs. Some might start because of their inherent need to fit into certain social contexts or with their peers. Others might start while trying to improve their performance and enhance their energy - especially in sporting and athletic situations.
In the same way, it is possible that you might get involved with recreational drug use while trying to cope with a stressful job, person, or event. Alternatively, you could start because you are looking for an escape from depression, anxiety, and other intense feelings.
Although some people only experiment once or twice before they decide to never abuse drugs again, others might have already developed an addiction to these recreational substances by the time they get to this stage.
This is because recreational drugs, by their very nature, contain highly addictive ingredients. In fact, it can be difficult to determine the exact amount of particular drugs you need to take in order for you to develop an addiction to it.
As such, some people might be able to use certain drugs on a daily basis and still manage to control how often and how much of it they use. Others could take the same substance once and find that they have developed continuous and relentless cravings for it.
You might also become addicted to the effects and feelings that you derive from a drug. For instance, if you want to stay awake and be alert for many others as a result of school and work obligations, you may become addicted to narcotics that make it possible for you to continue functioning with little to no sleep.
Initially, you might love these effects and the fact that you can accomplish more on any given day. However, with time, these narcotics may eventually become so problematic that the only way for you to overcome your continued use is by checking into a rehabilitation facility.
Last but not least, teens and young adults run a high risk of getting into recreational drug abuse as a result of trying to fit in. This is because they might start using while attempting to fit in with their peers and those who they look up to.
Adults have a more serious problem with prescription drug abuse more than teens. However, recent studies have shown that there is a dramatic rise in the total number of adolescents who abuse these medications. This is because many of them have access to prescription drugs like amphetamines, barbiturates, narcotics, and opioids at home, in schools, and on the street.
The problem of prescription drug abuse arose from the fact that more doctors are increasingly prescribing anti-anxiety pills, sleep aids, mood enhancers, antidepressants, and painkillers to patients all across the United States. Since these drugs can ease physical and mental discomfort in a matter of minutes - as well as yield other pleasurable and intoxicating effects - some people may start abusing them.
Although prescription drugs are provided by doctors, they can be just as troubling as recreational and illicit drugs. Even so, some people believe that abusing prescription drugs is not hazardous to their health as abusing street drugs - a common misconception for many.
This is because many prescription and recreational drugs are made using substances that are highly addictive and carry a high risk of abuse. In fact, you should keep in mind that you can overdose on your prescription medications just as easily as you could on a recreational rug.
When you receive a prescription, therefore, it is highly likely that your doctor will provide you with strict guidelines and instructions on how you should use the medication.
However, since your doctor might not be able to monitor your activities the moment you leave their office, it is impossible for them to control you or force you to follow their instructions exactly.
The problem of prescription drug abuse is so widespread that some addicts manipulate doctors so that they can receive higher doses of their preferred medications while others visit multiple doctors to get many prescriptions - a habit commonly referred to as doctor shopping.
In any case, by the time your doctor discovers that you have become addicted to these prescription drugs, it might be too late for them to do anything other than recommend you to go for addiction rehabilitation and treatment.
There are many other answers to the "why do people abuse drugs?" question. Irrespective of the reasons why you start abusing these intoxicating and mind altering substances, however, you can be sure that you will eventually suffer many adverse effects - in your personal and professional lives, in your relationships, performance, responsibilities, and even to your health and wellness.
If you get to a point where your continued drug use starts affecting the function of your brain in negative ways, you need to seek help before your condition worsens - which is highly likely to happen with many substances of abuse. In fact, you might find that you are no longer able to control how much or how often of your preferred drugs you take on a daily basis.
At this stage, the best decision you can make is to check into a rehabilitation program. By so doing, you will get the opportunity to detoxify successfully from the drugs you were abusing without suffering any adverse and uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms. After that, the rehab center will provide behavioral therapy in the form of group, individual, and family counseling, to further reinforce your continued sobriety and abstinence. In the long run, these treatments could potentially help you overcome your substance use disorder and addiction before it takes a serious toll on your life.
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