Why do people take drugs?

Source: NIDA Drugs, Brains, and Behavior: The Science of Addiction

People begin to take drugs for a variety of reasons:

  • To feel good. Most misused drugs produce an intense feeling of pleasure. This sensation of euphoria is followed by other effects, which differ with the type of drug used.

  • To feel better. Some people begin abusing drugs in an attempt to lessen feelings of distress. Stress can play a major role in beginning drug use, continuing drug use, or relapse in recovering addicts.

  • To do better. The increasing pressure that some people feel to chemically improve their athletic or cognitive performance can play a role in initial experimentation and continued drug use.

  • Curiosity and “because others are doing it.” In this respect adolescents are particularly vulnerable because of the strong influence of peer pressure.

Drug-Specific Information

What is drug addiction?

Source: NIDA Drugs, Brains, and Behavior: The Science of Addiction

Drug addiction is:

  • A chronic, relapsing brain disease that is characterized by compulsive drug seeking and use, despite harmful consequences.

  • A brain disease because drugs change the brain structure and the way it works.

  • Addictions are similar to other diseases in that they disrupt the normal, healthy functioning of the underlying organ, have serious harmful consequences, are preventable, treatable, and if left untreated, can last a lifetime.

What are some warning signs of youth alcohol and drug misuse and addiction?

Source: AACAP Facts for Families 

  • Physical signs include fatigue, repeated health complaints, red and glazed eyes, or a lasting cough.

  • Emotional signs include personality change, sudden mood changes, irritability, irresponsible behavior, low self-esteem, poor judgment, depression, or a general lack of interest.

  • Family signs include starting arguments, breaking rules, or withdrawing from the family.

  • School signs include decreased interest, negative attitude, drop in grades, many absences or truancy, or disciplinary action.

  • Social signs include new friends who are less interested in standard home and school activities or problems with the law.

Some of these warning signs can also be signs of other problems. If you have concerns, consult a physician to rule out physical causes of the warning signs.