Why Do People Use Drugs?

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PSY215: DRUGS AND DEPENDENCY

ESSAY ONE

WHY DO PEOPLE USE DRUGS?

LACHLAN SLOAN

30790798

Throughout history, people have used different kinds of drugs to alter the way they feel or experience consciousness. Ritualistic use of drugs has been commonly practiced by various cultures such as the mushroom induced trance state utilised by Native American Indians to commune with the Great Spirit. Pacific Islanders drink Kava as a means of connecting with the supernatural, healing illness and welcoming guests to the community. Whilst Indians referred to being consciously high as the state of ‘Shiva’ and associated this process with the worship of one of their prime deities, Shiva. Over time the ritualistic use of drugs has integrated as a part of modern society which can be observed in celebrations such as weddings and birthdays where alcohol is commonly consumed. As there is such a vast range of drugs and influences available with many established uses and categorisations the process of determining why people use drugs becomes intricate very rapidly. Norman E Zinberg developed a theory on drug use which is a widely accepted public health model. The basis of this theory argues that it is not possible to understand drug use, the effects or the outcomes of the drug experience unless you take into account the interrelationship of factors between: the drug, the environment and the individual (Zinberg, 1986). For the purpose of this analysis various aspects of influence have been categorised based on Zinberg’s theory to coherently convey why people use drugs. The categorizations are as follows: Individual (cognition, genetics, and physical/psychological state), drug (perceived functions of drug use in society/specific purpose for using a particular substance, drug related expectancies and compulsive use) and environment (social/contextual level).

Boys et al (2001) recorded among a study of 364 participants that had used cannabis over the past year that, the two most popular reasons for using the drug were to ‘just get really stoned or intoxicated’ (90.7%) and ‘help you to relax’ (96.8%). People using drugs often state that they use them to feel ‘good’. What makes these people feel ‘good’ is the way in which the chemicals in these drugs influence cognition. This state of feeling ‘good’ and or being high is attained because most drugs act on the limbic system in the brain, referred to as the ‘pleasure centre’. The presynaptic terminal releases the neurotransmitters Dopamine, Noradrenaline and Serotonin via nerves located at the terminal. These neurotransmitters are released and travel to the post synaptic terminal where specific receptor sites are located on the nerve cell for each neurotransmitter. Here nerve action potential is developed via neurotransmitter action on the receptor site. Prevalent drugs act by blocking, mimicking or stimulating the release of neurotransmitters via the presynaptic terminal. When Dopamine levels are increased, mimicked or reuptake is permitted (blocked) the reward pathway in the brain is affected which when stimulated creates feelings of pleasure and euphoria (pleasure is associated with reward). The ingested drug is hence associated with pleasure and reward and the person is influenced to continue using the particular drug. Current cognitive-motivational theories of addiction assert that prioritising appetitive, reward-related information plays an inherent role in the development and continuation of substance abuse (Field & Cox, 2008; Franken, 2003; Wiers et al 2007). A study focused on reward-related attentional processes among 682 young adolescents (mean age= 16.14) had participants complete a motivated game in the format of a spatial orienting task as a behavioural index of appetitive-related attentional processes and a questionnaire to index substance (alcohol, tobacco, and cannabis) use. Correlational analysis showed a positive relationship...
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