Why Do People Use Drugs?

Instructor: Amanda Robb

Amanda holds a Masters in Science from Tufts Medical School in Cellular and Molecular Physiology. She has taught high school Biology and Physics for 8 years.

In this lesson, we'll explore some of the reasons people use drugs. We'll look at four different examples of drug use, including prescription drugs, stimulants, alcohol, and marijuana.

Reasons for Drug Use

Although we tend to think about drug addicts as being poor, engaged in crime, and generally unhelpful to society, addiction is a disease that can affect anyone. Some people are predisposed to drug use. Others find themselves in situations where they get addicted to drugs accidentally, or they may see drugs as a temporary escape that gets out of control. We will take a look at scenarios of three individuals who started using drugs for different reasons.

The Recovering Athlete

Josh, a college athlete, hears a crack in his leg as he hits the ground during the game. Paramedics come running and his mom is crying. He's rushed to the hospital where he's treated for an open fracture, a serious break in his tibia that will require months of surgery, casts, pins and rehab.

Legitimate injuries can lead to pain pill addictions
football injury

Josh's doctor prescribes him a prescription pain killer, OxyContin, an opiate based drug with a chemical structure similar to heroin to take away the pain. Opiates are physically addicting and after extended use, the body starts to depend on the opiates and gets very sick without them during withdrawal.

As Josh's prescription starts to run out, he finds himself irritable, in pain, and even nauseous without the drugs. He asks his buddies on the team if they know where to find more. Soon, he feels out of control and all he thinks about are the drugs. Within a year, he's even used heroin as a substitute when the pills ran out. He's been kicked off the team and is nearly expelled from college.

A user injecting heroin
heroin use

In Josh's case, he never even wanted to do drugs. He wasn't curious, or depressed. He was prescribed them for a medical condition and became physically addicted. This unfortunately, is a common scenario for prescription drug addicts. Casual prescription of pain pills is a problem in hospitals and doctors need to prescribe these addicting medications with care and monitor patient use. If you find yourself using your medication more than is prescribed, or are preoccupied with it, talk to your doctor about switching to something else and getting treatment before the addiction spirals out of control.

The Overworked Lawyer

Darren is going crazy. As a first year lawyer at a huge downtown firm, he easily puts in 100 hours a week. He thought law school was bad. Mentioning this to some other first year lawyers at work, they tell him he needs to relax, come out and party, and let off some steam.

With all the new money of being a lawyer comes expensive bars and nightclubs. After a few drinks, his friends offer him a bump of cocaine, an addictive stimulant drug, when he says he's getting tired. Josh is kind of drunk, so he agrees to try it. All of a sudden, he's wide awake, with more energy than ever before and ready to go dancing until sunrise.

Preparation of cocaine for snorting
cocaine use

The next day, Josh remembers how the cocaine felt and how energetic he was. He asks his friend if he could buy some more, thinking it would be great for those late nights at the office. Soon, Darren finds that he is using the cocaine at work every night, and after work at the bar with his friends. One day at work, he finds his nose bleeding from snorting the cocaine. Although this seems like a problem, at this point it can't deter his drug use. He's scared but unsure of how to stop using.

A bloody nose is a symptom of snorting drugs
bloody nose

Cocaine is a very addictive drug. An emotional problem, or stress at work, might prompt a person to try drugs, but then the drugs take hold. The best way to avoid this is to find healthy coping skills like exercise, a healthy diet, and hobbies to relax. Professional help in the way of behavioral therapy, or sessions with a counselor, can help you manage your stress and get help for any existing drug problems.

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