Reasons for addiction

The reasons why people become addicted to drugs can sometimes be very simple, but are often far more complex on closer inspection. For some people what starts off as an innocuous habit can rapidly turn into a destructive one. Some users may develop an addiction accidentally as a result of repeated use of a particular drug for medical reasons, some may have a predisposition towards addictive tendencies, whilst some addictions may even occur for premeditated reasons.

Peer pressure can be an important factor in addiction. Many drugs are taken for the first time as a result of being offered by others, and if someone is frequently associating with people who take drugs on a regular basis, they may feel pressured to 'fit in'. This can be particularly damaging when it comes to so-called 'gateway' drugs, where drug abusers will find new, often more dangerous ways of getting high, and share them with other drug using acquaintances. Sometimes dealers will push stronger drugs with a higher addiction potential so as to increase their profits. Users may also be influenced by the supposed glamour of drug taking in popular culture.

Some cases of drug addiction occur as a result of people coming to rely upon a particular drug as a crutch for social situations. Perhaps they wish to increase their sense of self-confidence, or improve their perceived experience of a social event. A particularly good experience on a certain drug can lead to repeated use in similar situations, and over time, users may feel that they cannot deal with such situations without taking drugs.

Drug abuse can sometimes occur as a reaction to stressful life events. Depression, divorce, illness or bereavement, as well as a range of other factors, can all lead to a person attempting to deal with negative feelings through self-medicating with drugs. The problem in such cases is that the drugs will only ever deal with the symptoms, rather than the underlying causes of stress or unhappiness.

These issues can often be very complex and difficult to deal with. However, the use of drugs can only ever be a temporary solution, as attempting to escape problems by using drugs will never solve them. Often this will result in a negative spiral, with users feeling they need drugs simply to get through the day. A drug addiction can also be very expensive, and when the money runs out drug users will often go to extreme lengths to get another fix, sometimes resorting to antisocial behaviour and crime.

The high that a drug delivers is very often a reason why people will use a drug repeatedly. Having a positive experience on a drug will result in a person wishing to replicate that experience, which when done on a regular basis can turn into a destructive habit. As the body develops a tolerance to the effects of a drug, higher doses are needed to be taken in order to achieve the same high. Easy availability of drugs in certain locations, for instance at nightclubs or raves, can also be a contributing factor, and this is often related to peer pressure.

Sometimes drug addictions can develop unintentionally. Prescription medicines legitimately used to deal with pain can with repeated use over a period of time turn into a habit, and eventually into an addiction. A user may also enjoy the side effects of a drug and carry on taking it recreationally even after the affliction it was meant to treat has disappeared.

Some people will have a predisposition towards addictive tendencies, while others may have been exposed to certain drugs such as alcohol or cigarettes by their parents, and end up copying their behaviour. Personality can also be very important, for instance people with low self-confidence may wish to appear more at ease in social situations, while people who suffer from anxiety may wish to use drugs to relax themselves. Curiosity may also lead to people trying drugs to which they may later become addicted.

What can start off as an innocent habit can over time develop into a serious addiction without the user realising it. Drugs such as over the counter painkillers or small amounts of alcohol can seem relatively harmless initially, particularly when there are no significant ill health effects in the short term. However, repeated use of a drug, particularly amongst those with addictive personalities, can be very damaging in the long term.

The reasons for any drug addiction will vary from person to person based on physical, psychological and external factors, and so no two addictions will ever be entirely the same.