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Why Do Drugs?

Alcohol And DrugsAny casual look at media, billboards, online popups, and banners and signs in stores is enough to show that medications and drugs are ubiquitous. Whether used initially for a legitimate medical reason – with a prescription from a doctor – or socially, drug use can and does morph into something much more serious, including addiction. Why, then, do drugs?

Just as there are many reasons people drink alcohol, there are equally as many why they do drugs. Here are some of the more common:

To feel euphoria, pleasure and empathy, even though temporary

Who doesn’t want to feel good? Euphoria is a feeling often synonymous with pleasure, even empathy. One of the reasons people do drugs is because they desperately want that feeling. The fact that a euphoric state is often followed by a crash and a severe reversal of feeling doesn’t seem to deter the determined user. In a frantic attempt to recapture the euphoric feeling, the drug user may increase dosage or frequency, neither of which is a good outcome.

To get “high”

Closely related to feelings of euphoria is the express intention to get “high” on drugs. This is a deliberate choice to do drugs in order to achieve a state of altered awareness. Users rationalize they want to forget problems, say they need to check out from reality, or just take drugs for something to do.

To experience increased energy

In addition to wanting to achieve euphoria and get high, another common reason to do drugs is to experience an increase in energy. This burst of energy, however, is only short-term, often leading to increased usage to recapture or maintain that energetic feeling.

To enjoy the “rush”

Still other drug users say they do drugs because they enjoy the rush. This is an acute awareness of the emotions that using the drug provide. A large part of the attraction to drug use is the instantaneous high, which is very difficult to say no to, especially for an addictive personality type.

To escape peer pressure

First exposure to drugs for many young people is through their peers. This occurs mostly at unsupervised gatherings such as parties, and during the summer, holidays and on weekends. Young people, who often find it painfully difficult to go against the mood of the group and stand up for their own beliefs, may get into drug use to satisfy peer pressure.

As a result of family influence

Studies of teens, including one 2005 study of some 16,000 teenagers in Orange County, California, show that teens implicate family members as the biggest influence on whether or not they use drugs, tobacco or alcohol. On the proactive side, this is good news for parents who can use their influence to reinforce family values and emphatically state that it’s not OK to do drugs. It’s important to note that teens also learn by observation. When parents don’t use/abuse drugs, and such use is not tolerated in the home unless for prescribed medical purposes, teens are more likely to avoid drug use.

To experience thrills and risky behavior

A great temptation for many people is taking risks and constantly searching out thrills. When it comes to doing drugs, this is especially true. Whether the drug of choice or availability is an illegal drug such as cocaine, ecstasy, GHB, amphetamines, methamphetamines, opiates and sedatives, hallucinogenic drugs or designer drugs, even prescription medicines they find at home (or in the homes of friends), the thrill-seeking, risky behavior of experimenting with drugs often proves impossible to resist.

To escape boredom

Bored people typically look for something to relieve their stagnant state. Lacking schedules, daily routine, strong family values, role models and discipline, for young people especially, drug-taking behavior is an easy way to escape boredom.

To rebel

The teenage years are marked by tremendous mood swings, experimentation, challenging authority and other rebellious activity. One way teens rebel, whether against parental, societal, religious or other authority, is by taking drugs. In some teen groups, aided by strong peer pressure, doing drugs is almost a rite of passage and teens reassure themselves that this is what all the “cool” kids do.

To overcome shyness and fit in

Individuals who are painfully shy may experiment with drugs to help overcome their inability to comfortably relate with others. By using drugs, some people harbor the mistaken belief that they’ll fit in.

Why Do Drugs?

Suzanne Kane

Suzanne Kane is a Los Angeles-based writer, blogger and editor. Passionate about helping others live a vibrant and purposeful life, she writes daily for her website, She is a regular contributor to Psych Central. You can reach her at

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APA Reference
Kane, S. (2018). Why Do Drugs?. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 24, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Jul 2018 (Originally: 26 Oct 2016)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Jul 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.