Module 5: young people, society and AOD: facilitator's guide

3.1 Reasons why people use drugs

Page last updated: 2004

For most people, using drugs is just another way of altering consciousness that is not so different from many other recreational activities. For a relatively small number of people who develop more compulsive drug-using patterns, drug use serves a deeper purpose (such as helping enhance identity, acceptance, and reducing psychological distress or a sense of alienation).

Human beings have a long history of using substances to alter their consciousness. Ancient tribes made their own mind-altering substances, some of which are still used today.

When working with young people, it is important to understand that for many, drug use is a fairly normal part of growing up, and that the reasons why many young people use drugs is not too different from the reasons why adults might enjoy drinking alcohol or engaging in other non-drug activities.

Therefore it is important to understand why young people might choose to use alcohol and other drugs and to consider this in the context of youth and youth culture.

Comparing adults and young people

Task - Brainstorm exercise

Consider the reasons why adults use psycho-active drugs (including caffeine, alcohol, and tobacco) and why young people use psycho-active drugs. Write down the reasons.

Now consider the following reasons given by a sample of drug users for their use of a particular drug (Zinberg).