Why Do People Use Drugs?
There has been a great deal of research on this subject. What this research has shown is that people most often takes drugs in order to: 1. Feel good. Many drug users are sensations-seekers, or may want to experiment with feeling high or just feeling different; 2. Feel better. These drug users are doing what is known as “self-medicating,” or they are taking drugs in an attempt to cope with difficult problems or situations like stress, trauma, or symptoms of mental disorders.
It can be difficult to face one’s problems. Some people end up believing that drugs are a solution. Drugs may help alleviate physical pain or emotional pain for a short period. During the short period spent being “high,” a person could have made changes to repair his problem and get back to regular life. Inevitably, though, the drugs wear off and the problem returns. The solution, then, becomes to take more drugs. The process repeats and the drugs become the greater problem. The consequences of drug use are always worse than the problem one is trying to solve in the first place. That’s why so many people end up in drug rehabs.
One may ask how these drugs work exactly. What happens in the body when you take a drug? The fact is that drugs exert their effects on the motivation and pleasure pathways of the brain. The chemical structure of drugs is similar to brain chemicals, or what we call neurotransmitters. Because they are similar in structure to neurotransmitters, they will be recognized by neurons and thus interfere with normal brain messages.
For example, when one smokes or eats marijuana, it releases a psychoactive agent called THC. The chemical structure of THC is highly similar to anadamide, which is involved in a variety of functions including regulation of pain, appetite, memory and mood. This is the cause of the chemical changes that one experiences with marijuana. Nearly all drugs that are abused will directly or indirectly increase dopamine in the brain; this is the primary way in which the pleasure and motivation pathways in the brain become excited. With all this chemical activity occurring, there is an alteration of the normal communication between neurons. All of these neurons communicate through chemical messages. There are billions of neurons in the brain. Dopamine is a naturally occurring chemical in our brain whose neurotransmitters become stimulated, for example, when we eat something delicious or engage in a pleasurable sexual act. All of these things can cause dopamine levels to increase. What happens when we use drugs? The drug attaches to dopamine transporters and thereby continues to stimulate the receptors for that neurotransmitter. The duration of the stimulation and the amount of dopamine released under the influence of drugs are both far greater than as normally occur when a person engages in an enjoyable activity. This overproduction of dopamine is what produces intense highs when users do drugs, and it is a primary motivating factor for users’ drug cravings.
So that’s what’s happening in our bodies when we do drugs. Many drugs make their user liable to distorted perceptions and actions since they directly affect the mind. A user’s perceptions become distorted and he does not know what is happening around him. As a result, the person’s actions may be inappropriate and even destructive. We know without a doubt that some drugs can block certain sensations—both ones that are desirable and ones that are not. But drugs can also harm a user’s motor ability, alertness, and their intellectual capacities as well.