Abuse and Addiction
The following are frequently asked questions and answers about drug and alcohol use, abuse, chemical dependency and addiction.
Why do people use alcohol and drugs?
People use alcohol and drugs often as a way to fit in with a particular group, to feel more at ease in a social setting, to escape problems or as a way to reduce stress. However, these reasons often lead to far-reaching consequences such as addiction, financial problems, health problems and family/social problems.
In general, drug and alcohol use stems from the user’s perception of benefit and their own needs. Because many drugs act on the brain’s “pleasure pathways”, the user can experience intense feelings of pleasure. The initial euphoria can be followed by other perceived benefits, depending on the type of drug being used. With stimulants such as cocaine, for example, the euphoric high is followed by feelings of empowerment, greater confidence and self-esteem and increased energy.
What role does peer pressure play in teenage alcohol and drug use?
Teenagers and adolescents are especially vulnerable to group pressure and can more readily succumb to experimenting with alcohol and drug use because “everyone is doing it”. In this manner, alcohol use, even binge drinking, for example, is just another thrill-seeking behavior brought about by peer pressure.
Are there psychological components to drug and alcohol use?
Yes. People suffering from anxiety disorders, trauma, depression or other psychological illnesses can begin using alcohol and drugs to reduce or numb their personal distress. The role of stress in beginning drug use, continuing drug abuse, or relapse in recovering patients cannot be minimized. Likewise, some people who suffer from social anxieties, for example, believe that they “fit in” better when using alcohol or drugs. Individuals with alcohol or drug dependence are nearly twice as likely to have a co-occurring psychological disorder
What determines when does alcohol and drug use become substance abuse?
For many drug and alcohol users, use becomes abuse when their drug begins to assert control over their lives. In the early stages of alcohol and drug use, people focus on what they perceive to be the positive effects of substance use. Many users also quickly believe that they can control their drug use, in effect turning on or turning off the positive effects. Unfortunately, over time drug use and the pleasure associated with it becomes less pleasurable, and increased drug use becomes necessary for users to feel "normal" or to achieve the same effect they first did. For many substance abusers, this is a tipping point, where they have reached a state where they seek and take increasing amounts of drugs, despite the tremendous problems caused for themselves and their families.