Why People Use Drugs?

But why are the intoxicants (modifiers of nervous function) so sought after? What are the reasons that drive people to use them?

We think that we could assign these reasons to four basic groups:

1. In order to reduce unpleasant anxiety and depression feelings. These feelings are:

    General, due to the human condition. Human being’s anxiety regarding life was very well described by philosophers of the existentialist school. According to them, human beings, without knowing why and what for, are thrown into a hostile or indifferent world. During their lifetimes human beings are permanently menaced by annihilation, confronted with absurdity, having but one certainty in relation to their future – that of their unavoidable death, happening in an unforeseen time and under unknown circumstances. According to the existentialist concepts, we could thus define life as a tragic, absurd and illogical adventure, that always ends by death.

    Some authors say that, considering the existential condition, it is no wonder that man feels anxious, but that he feels so little anxiety.

    Specific for certain individuals, originated by traumatic experiences or pathological conditions. Instances belonging to this kind are drug abuse by war veterans or persons affected by social phobias or depression.

2. In order to enhance bodily sensations and to induce sensorial gratification of aesthetic and, specially, erotic nature. Some drug users say that during the use of their drug of choice, music sounds better, colours are brighter and orgasm is more intense.

3. In order to increase psychophysical performances, by reducing unpleasant bodily sensations like pain, insomnia,  tiredness or by overcoming physiological needs like sleep and hunger. During the Inca empire, coca leaves were chewed by porters and messengers to increase their resistance and speed. Amphetamine is frequently used by truck drivers to shorten the time of their trips.

    A curious case was that of a young psychopath, examined by one of us, admitted to a mental hospital due to amphetamine intoxication. Working for a drug dealer, this young man became an amphetamine user in order to stay awake more hours, and thus have more time to sell drugs and get the approval of his boss.

    Chronic pains and persistent insomnia are well known causes of different analgetics and hypnotics abuse.

4. As a way to transcend the limits of the body and the time-space yoke, in order to unite with the reality behind all phenomena or, in a more limited way, with some spiritual being that can give man, at least temporarily, special powers.

Reports are known about the use of cacti and fungi by several indian nations, on special occasions, in order to contact their gods or ancestors.

There are also reports on the use of drugs by shamans during their healing activities as well as on the alcohol-drinking by medium possessed by spiritual entities during trance states in rituals of Afro-American cults. Usually, in these cases, the use of drugs happens only in well-defined situations, culturally accepted and approved, without impairing the social performance of those persons. On the other side many drug users, like some hippies of the 60’s, use different drugs (mainly hallucinogens) in search of a substitute for religious experiences.

Brain & Mind Magazine 3(8), Jan/March 1999
An Initiative by the Center for Biomedical Informatics
Copyright (c) 1998 Universidade Estadual de Campinas, Brasil
Published on 18/Jan/1998
URL: http://www.epub.org.br/cm/n08/doencas/drugs/abuse02_i.htm