Why Do People Use Drugs?

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Knowing why people use drugs can help those who are concerned about a loved one’s consumption of drugs, alcohol, or prescription medications. Drug addiction (substance use disorder) is a chronic and progressive condition that typically worsens if untreated.

Despite the known risks and challenges associated with drug use, many people still experiment with addictive substances for various reasons. By understanding the underlying motivations for drug use, we can better address the issue of addiction and provide more targeted support to those in need.

Today, you will discover:

  • Why do people take drugs?
  • Why people use drugs to self-medicate mental health issues.
  • Why are so many teens using drugs?
  • What you should instead – connect with evidence-based treatment.
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Top 5 Reasons Why People Use Drugs

Why do people use drugs? These are the leading reasons:

  1. Escaping from reality
  2. Peer influence and social pressure
  3. Curiosity and thrill-seeking
  4. Self-medication
  5. Lack of education and awareness

1) Escaping from reality

Many people turn to drugs to escape from the hardships and challenges of daily life. Drugs can offer a temporary reprieve from emotional pain, stress, and traumatic experiences. Individuals may seek relief from depression, anxiety, or other mental health issues. Regrettably, self-medicating mental health symptoms with drugs provides only a temporary escape and does not tackle the underlying causes. Exploring healthier coping mechanisms and seeking professional help can address the root issues and promote sustained recovery.

2) Peer influence and social pressure

The desire to fit in and be accepted can lead some people, especially teenagers, to experiment with drugs. Peer pressure and the influence of friends can be powerful motivators. Additionally, the glorification of drug and alcohol use in modern media and social environments can contribute to this pressure. To combat this, it is beneficial to promote self-acceptance and educate individuals about the dangers of succumbing to peer pressure. Encouraging open dialogue and fostering a supportive environment can empower people to make healthy choices.

3) Curiosity and thrill-seeking

Some people use drugs to seek excitement, euphoria, and altered states of consciousness. The desire to experience something new and break away from mundane routines can lead to drug experimentation. Beyond this, engaging in risky behaviors and breaking rules can provide a sense of rebellion and an adrenaline rush. Healthy alternatives for thrill-seeking – adventure sports or creative outlets – can provide a natural high without the dangers associated with substance abuse.

4) Self-medication

Individuals struggling with undiagnosed or untreated mental health issues may turn to drugs to alleviate their symptoms. Drugs may provide a temporary escape from emotional pain or distressing thoughts, but will ultimately inflame symptoms and potentially lead to substance use disorder. Raising awareness about mental health and reducing the stigma surrounding it can help people find healthier ways to manage their challenges.

5) Lack of education and awareness

Many people start using drugs due to a lack of understanding about the risks and consequences involved with substance abuse. Insufficient knowledge about healthier coping mechanisms and alternatives may also contribute to substance use. To combat this, comprehensive drug education programs should be promoted, providing accurate information about the risks and consequences of substance abuse. Increasing awareness about healthy coping strategies and available support services is vital for prevention.

a young man is sitting on a bench with his head in his hands to represent the reasons why teens use drugs

Why Do Teens Use Drugs?

Among the many reasons why teens use drugs, these are the most common:

  • Social acceptance and peer influence
  • Emotional and mental challenges
  • Lack of information

Social acceptance and peer influence

Teenagers often face intense peer pressure to experiment with drugs in order to fit in or gain popularity. Media portrayals and societal norms contribute to the perception that drug use is cool or desirable. To continue fighting teen drug use, it is essential to encourage open communication with teenagers, fostering self-esteem and self-acceptance. Promoting positive peer relationships and providing guidance on how to resist peer pressure can help teens to make healthier lifestyle choices.

Emotional and mental challenges

Adolescence is a period of significant emotional and psychological changes, making teens vulnerable to mental health issues. Stress, anxiety, and depression can drive young adults to seek solace in drugs as a form of self-medication. Early intervention, counseling services, and providing safe spaces for expression are all beneficial components of supporting teen mental health. Educating teens about healthy coping techniques and the potential dangers of drug use is also key.

Lack of information

In some cases, teens may use drugs due to a lack of accurate information about their risks and consequences. Comprehensive drug education programs in schools and at home can play a vital role in equipping teens with the necessary knowledge to make informed decisions. Parents, teachers, and guardians should prioritize open discussions about drugs, emphasizing the importance of responsible choices and providing a supportive environment for teenagers to seek guidance.

What to Do If a Loved One Is Using Drugs

Discovering that a loved one is using drugs can be distressing and overwhelming. Approach the situation with empathy, understanding, and a focus on their well-being. Leave blame and judgment aside. Here are some steps you can take if you suspect or know that a loved one is using drugs:

  • Educate yourself about drug addiction: Start by educating yourself about the specific substance your loved one is using, its effects, and the available evidence-based treatment options. Understanding the drug and its impact can help you approach the situation more effectively and provide informed support, helping connect them with the treatment they need before the problem gets worse.
  • Open communication: Initiate an open and non-judgmental conversation with your loved one. Choose a time when they are receptive and not under the influence of drugs. Express your concern, love, and support, and encourage them to share their experiences and feelings. Listen attentively and avoid blaming or criticizing them.
  • Offer support: Let your loved one know that you are there to support them throughout their recovery journey. Encourage them to seek professional help via a counselor, therapist, or addiction specialist. Offer to accompany them to appointments or help them research treatment options, depending on their circumstances. Reassure them that seeking help is a sign of strength, and emphasize that recovery is possible.
  • Set boundaries: While supporting your loved one, ensure that you establish and communicate clear boundaries. Clarify the behaviors you will and will not tolerate. Setting boundaries helps maintain your own well-being while still offering support. It may involve limiting contact or access to resources if your loved one continues to engage in harmful behaviors.
  • Encourage healthy lifestyle changes: Help your loved one in making positive lifestyle changes. Encourage them to engage in activities they enjoy, such as hobbies or exercise, as these can provide a healthy outlet for stress and help occupy their time. Help them explore new interests and connect with supportive communities or peer groups.
  • Seek support for yourself: Supporting someone with substance abuse issues can be emotionally challenging. Take care of your own well-being by seeking support from friends, family, or support groups like Al-Anon or Nar-Anon. Consider talking to a therapist or counselor who can provide guidance and coping strategies during this difficult time.
  • Avoid enabling: Avoid enabling your loved one’s drug use. Enablement includes actions like providing financial support, covering up their behaviors, or making excuses for them. While it might be difficult, allowing them to experience the consequences of their actions can be a motivating factor for seeking help.

Remember that recovery is a personal journey, and each individual’s path may be different. Be patient, supportive, and understanding throughout the process. Encourage and celebrate their progress, but also be prepared for setbacks. Recovery takes time, effort, and ongoing support, but with love and perseverance, your loved one can find their way to a healthier and happier life.

A woman sits looking out at a sunset to represent why do people take drugs in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Get Treatment for Drug Addiction at Ohio Recovery Centers

if you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, Ohio Recovery Centers is here to provide personalized drug addiction treatment programs. Whether it’s alcohol, prescription medications, or illicit drugs, our center offers a range of options to meet your specific needs.

Research indicates that intensive outpatient treatment can be just as effective as residential rehab for mild to moderate addictions. As well as IOPs, our traditional outpatient programs provide the same level of care while offering greater flexibility and affordability. At our Cincinnati rehab, we also offer IOPs (intensive outpatient programs) for those who require more support and structure in their recovery from drug addiction.

All our treatment programs integrate pharmacological, behavioral, and holistic therapies to ensure a comprehensive and evidence-based approach to recovery. When you complete your treatment at Ohio Recovery Centers, you’ll be equipped with relapse prevention strategies, coping techniques, and ongoing therapy options if needed.

For immediate assistance and to start your journey toward recovery, contact our admissions team today at 877- 679-2132. We’re here to provide the support and guidance you need to reclaim your life from addiction.

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Joseph Gilmore

Joseph Gilmore has been working in the addiction industry for half a decade and has been writing about addiction and substance abuse treatment during that time. He has experience working for facilities all across the country. Connect with Joe on LinkedIn.
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Christopher Glover CDCA

My name is Christopher Glover, and I am from Cincinnati, Ohio. I am currently in school and working to grow in competence to better support our community. As a recovering individual I know the struggles that you or a loved one can go through and that there is help for anything you may be struggling with.

The hardest part is asking for help and we are here as a team to best support you and your decision to start your journey towards a better future. Connect with Chris on LinkedIn

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Amanda Kuchenberg PRS CDCA

I recently joined Ohio Community Health Recovery Centers as a Clinical Case Manager. I am originally from Wisconsin but settled in the Cincinnati area in my early 20s.  My career started in the fashion industry but quickly changed as I searched to find my drive and passion through helping others who struggle with addiction. 

As someone who is also in recovery, I wanted to provide hope, share lived experience, and support others on their journey.  I currently have my Peer Recovery Support Supervision Certification along with my CDCA and plan to continue my education with University of Cincinnati so I can continue to aid in the battle against substance addiction. Connect with Amanda on LinkedIn.

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Patrick McCamley LCDC III

 Patrick McCamley (Clinical Therapist) is a Cincinnati native who has worked in substance use disorder/co-occurring mental health disorder treatment since 2019. Patrick received his bachelors degree in psychology from University of Cincinnati in 2021 and received his LCDC III (Licensed Chemical Dependency Counselor) license from the Ohio Chemical Dependency Professionals Board in 2022. Patrick has worked in Clinical Operations, Clinical Case Management, and Clinical Therapy throughout his career.

Patrick has tremendous empathy and compassion for the recovery community, being in recovery himself since 2018. Patrick is uniquely qualified to be helpful because of the specific combination of his academic background and his own experience in recovery.

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Bill Zimmerman CDCA

Bill Zimmerman is a Greater Cincinnati Area native who has worked in substance use disorder/co-occurring mental health disorder treatment since 2018. Bill received his (Chemical Dependency Counselor Assistant) license from the Ohio Chemical Dependency Professionals Board in 2020.

Bill has worked in Clinical Operations in both support and supervision, and Program facilitating and 12 step recovery support during his career. Bill has a passion for the recovery community, having been in recovery himself since 1982. Connect with Bill on LinkedIn

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Taylor Lilley CDCA, PRS

Growing up in Louisiana with addiction running rampant on both sides of my family. A life away from drugs and alcohol seemed impossible for someone like me. I remember what it was like sitting across from someone thinking there is no way they could ever understand what I was going through.

Sharing my experience offers a credibility and a certain type of trust with clients that only someone who has walked down this road can illustrate. To immerse myself further into the field of addiction, I am currently studying at Cincinnati State for Human and Social Services.  I hope I never forget where I came from, if I can do it, so can you!

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Thomas Hunter LSW

Hello my name is Thomas Hunter. I was born and raised in Cincinnati, Ohio. I am a licensed social worker.In my scope of practice I have worked in the areas of mental health and recovery for thirty years. The clients I have worked with in my career have ranged in age from seven to seventy.

I strive each day to serve my purpose of helping those in need and I believe I do so by utilizing all of my experiences to accomplish my goal of supporting those who desire to establish their sobriety and maintain it in their recovery. Connect with Thomas on LinkedIn.

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Mary D.Porter,LICDC

 My name is Mary D. Porter. I received my Masters of Social Work in 2008 from The University of Cincinnati. I received My Licensed Independent Chemical Dependency Counselor Licensure in 2001. I retired from The Department of Veteran Affairs Medical Center on April 14, 2014. Currently, I am the Associate Clinical Director for The Ohio Community Health Recovery Centers in Cincinnati.. Due to the fourth wave of the Opioid Epidemic in 2019,  I decided to enter back into the workforce to assist the addicted population.

The overdoses were astounding and I wanted to help.  I consider myself  to be an advocate for the addicted population. My compassion, resilience, empathy, wisdom, knowledge, experience and  love I have for this forgotten population goes beyond words. I consider what I do for the addicted population as a calling versus a “career,” because I too was once an “addict and alcoholic.” Today I am 45.5 years alcohol and substance free.

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Ben Lemmon LCDC III

Hello, my name is Ben Lemmon, and I’m the Vice President and Clinical Director at Ohio Community Health Recovery Centers. I’ve been working in the addiction and mental health field since 2013 and decided to enter the field after overcoming my own challenges with addiction.

When I first meet a client, I always explain to them that the reason we are meeting is because they are not capable of obtaining or maintaining sobriety, and my goal is to create a person that can maintain sobriety. I believe a person’s personality is made up of their thoughts, feelings and actions and my job is to help clients identify the thoughts, feelings and actions that have them disconnected from recovery and provide them with the tools to live a healthy and happy life. Connect with Ben on LinkedIn