Drugs can provide temporary feelings of relief or euphoria however they can also open the door to a range of health, financial, legal and social problems. In this article, we look at why people start taking drugs and why they find it difficult to stop.

Why do people start using drugs?

There are a number of reasons why people start using drugs, from yearning for social acceptance to numbing themselves. Whatever the reason, starting to take drugs can be the beginning of a long and difficult journey, and any relief or thrill caused by the drugs will soon fade.

Peer pressure

One of the big reasons people start using drugs is because their friends or peers encourage them to do so, with the familiar goads of “it’s cool” or “don’t be boring”.

Although peer pressure is mostly associated with teenagers, it can be a strong motivator for anyone of any age. It’s particularly powerful for those who want to fit in with a certain group and feel that taking drugs will help earn them social kudos.


Curiosity is also a big influence when it comes to starting drug taking and, while less direct than peer pressure, is another societal cause.

Curiosity is a more pressing factor for those who have friends that take drugs; this is because they are more likely to be aware of the strange and euphoric feelings they can provide, and because they have access to try drugs.


Another cause for starting to take drugs is self-medicating. This may include taking psychotics to escape the realities of somebody’s situation or using drugs or alcohol to numb pain. Medicating this way doesn’t solve the problem and invariably makes everything worse.

Self-medication is a particularly dangerous reason to start taking drugs because the human body needs larger or more frequent doses to achieve the same level of numbing; over time this leads to the very real possibility of overdosing. Even before reaching a fatal situation, drugs can cause great harm to important internal organs such as the liver, heart or lungs.

Reducing stress or grief

Linked to the above is starting drug-taking to manage stress or grief. Both stress and grief will come up throughout everybody’s lives, such as through work, family life, money, death, or the ending of a relationship, and there are many ways to cope with them.

Some people choose to use drugs or alcohol as a way to handle stress or grief and the bouts of depression they can bring, but this can cause physical problems (as mentioned above) without providing any real help.

Stress is known to increase a person’s heart rate or blood pressure and taking drugs can actually exacerbate these problems.

Seeking natural ways to combat stress, such as exercise or yoga, and grief, such as counselling, are much more effective and do not carry the risks that come with drugs and alcohol.

Antidote to boredom

Tied in with curiosity, and being a major cause of relapsing addicts, boredom is another reason people start taking drugs. They may be bored with their life or feel they need a sudden rush of excitement to get a hit of dopamine.

Dopamine is a naturally-occurring hormone in the body and drugs aren’t the only way to release it; spending time with friends, having sex, eating tasty food, exercising and going on roller coasters are also good ways to get a hit of dopamine.

Why do people continue to use drugs and why is it difficult to stop?

Many of the reasons people start to take drugs – social acceptance, pleasure, numbing – are also the reason they continue, and a lot of people continue using drugs without realising they are forming a dependency on them.

Unfortunately, starting to take drugs is a lot easier than stopping. Drugs change the brain’s chemistry, effectively rewiring it so the brain views the drug as a necessity.

Addicts’ brains have physical changes in the parts of the brain that control judgment and decision-making, so it can be very difficult for a person to stop taking drugs, particularly if they have been using them for a prolonged period.

Triggers also play a big part in the continued usage of drugs; a trigger can be anything from a place, person or thing to a feeling, smell or memory that causes an addict to want to take drugs. Learning how to manage and avoid triggers is a powerful mechanism recovering addicts can use on their sobriety journey.

If you, or someone you know, are struggling with drug or alcohol addiction, get in touch to find out how ANA Treatment Centres can help.