Why do People Start Taking Drugs?

There’s a moment in every addict’s life when they reach out for a drug or a drink for the very first time. Whether or not you agree with the concept that addiction is a disease, that first moment of drug use or drinking is a choice that each person makes. And for each person, there’s a reason behind that choice. It doesn’t just happen. Here are some of the most common reasons that choice is made, as told to us by those who started their drug use young, became addicted and finally recovered at a Narconon rehab center.

group of young adults partying

1. “Everyone is doing it.”

This is a subtle kind of peer pressure. It may not even be that anyone says anything direct about using drugs. It may just be that a young person is in a room where it seems like everyone else is having a good time. What are they to do? Walk out? Go home? So they join in.

Here are the explanations that were given by two people who got started using drugs this way, who later became addicted before completing the Narconon drug rehab program.

“I started smoking pot to fit in with everybody. And it looked like everybody was having a good time. And they told me ‘nobody’s died from smoking pot.'”

“I was 17 or 18 years old, we’d sit around and smoke pot and drink beers in my buddy’s garage.”

2. “It seemed like fun.”

When a teen or young adult doesn’t know how to create fun activities for himself and doesn’t have strong interests in life, smoking pot or drinking with friends can seem more entertaining than sitting around doing nothing. In other words, he (or she) is looking for an escape from boredom. When high or drunk, he doesn’t feel bored. Problems can arise when using drugs or drinking becomes something the young person falls back on again and again. If drug use becomes consistent, it is very easy to slip into addiction without even noticing. Here are the words of another person who finished the Narconon program, talking about how they got started.

teens drinking and doing drugs

“I had a lot of friends, I was living in the dorms; they started smoking marijuana and they made it seem like so much fun.”

3. “I could relax.”

Many people use drugs to temporarily relieve the pressures of problems in their lives. With marijuana, one seems to not care about any problems; with opiates, the euphoria overwhelms any concerns. With alcohol, life becomes a party while problems seem far away. Here’s how one person described their first use of marijuana.

“The very first time I started using marijuana, if I was stressed, if I had a bad day or just wanted to relax, I could smoke some marijuana then I could chill out, things didn’t really bother me. I could relax and maybe things weren’t that big of a deal and things could wait till later.”

4. “I could fit in.”

young girl left out of group

Many young people lack the social skills to feel comfortable in groups of people. They might not know how to make new friends. When trying to find a group to fit into, some people, young or old, decide to reach for drugs or alcohol to make this easier. One young woman put it this way:

“I had moved from Las Vegas to North Carolina, I found new friends and they were already smoking weed and drinking, and they invited me to go. Of course, I wanted new friends and to be accepted so it seemed fun enough so I did it.”

5. “My curiosity grew really strong.”

When a young person sees their friends using drugs and seeming to have fun, he can get intensely curious about the whole experience. Even if he does not have a particular need himself, he may want to see what everyone is talking about. If he continues to be intrigued by the experience, it could become a destructive habit, however.

“My best friend started using methamphetamine after her sister started using it. I felt like I was losing my best friend so my curiosity grew like really strong, and I was pretty much determined to use it at that point so I could see what they were doing that seemed like so much fun.”

6. “We would do anything that was bad.”

Using drugs or drinking goes against what most parents teach so some young people still living at home may be attracted to it just because it’s what their parents don’t want them to do. Of course, this could severely backfire on them if they become addicted like this young man did.

“I got started when I was in junior high. I was already not doing well in school. I was kind of an outcast and started hanging out with an outcast crowd. We would do anything that was considered wrong or bad. So naturally, when marijuana came around, we did marijuana.”

7. “Fell in with the wrong crowd.”

That’s a statement many people make but the fall into drug abuse is more accurately explained by not knowing how to make smart choices, not understanding what makes some people good friends and others dangerous influences, and how to keep one’s own integrity intact. Without having these life skills, a person can run into a group of drug-using friends and be swept into that lifestyle.

“I didn’t have a bad childhood, I was raised well, there’s no particular reason I should have gone into the direction that I did. I fell in with the wrong crowd and it made it just that easy to start using drugs.”

One of the basic reasons a person becomes addicted to using drugs or drinking is that these reasons don’t magically go away after a person uses drugs a few times. They may still lack the social skills to be comfortable around other people or may still suffer from stress and problems. They may still be bored or seeking ways to fit in. In other words, there are still reasons to keep using drugs. Drugs or alcohol seem to offer solutions and the more those solutions seem to be needed, the more often a person may indulge.

But as drug use damages relationships, finances or just one’s ability to think clearly, there are more problems and stresses than ever. It may be more essential than ever to numb oneself to life. A wife may demand that a husband spend more time with her and the kids. Parents may want to know why grades are slipping. There may have been a DUI or other drug-related legal problem. A boss may demand better performance on the job. When the individual escapes into drugs or alcohol, these problems are just going to get worse.

This is the spiral that takes people down into addiction. By then, the intense cravings for drugs are calling the shots, not the individual. That’s when thousands of people have come to Narconon to get their lives back. But for recovery to be lasting, these original problems must be resolved. A person must have the personal skills to resolve problems in life. She must know how to communicate to others comfortably and know which people would make good friends and which ones should not be trusted. He must be capable of making smart decisions, especially in challenging situations.

That’s why the Narconon program has such a strong focus on developing life skills. More than half the steps of this long-term program are devoted to helping a person build the skills needed to navigate a sober course.

Learn about the life skills training of the Narconon program