Why Do People Turn to Drugs and Alcohol?

Why Do People Turn to Drugs and Alcohol?

Why do people turn to drugs and alcohol? The truth is, the answer isn’t so straightforward. Drug abuse and alcohol addictions can cause significant harm to people’s lives, and once a habit has formed, they can often find themselves trapped in a cycle of detrimental consequences.

In this blog, we aim to answer a very simple yet complex question – Why do people turn to drugs and alcohol? From personal struggles to mental health support to societal influences, gain a better understanding of what drives individuals to develop an alcohol addiction or drug dependence below.


Why Do People Turn to Drugs And Alcohol?

The reasons people find themselves turning to alcohol or drugs are incredibly complex and unique to the person, similar to the nature of addiction itself. Everyone has different experiences and normalities, which can influence how people cope with certain circumstances.

The use of drugs or the act of heavy drinking poses significant risks, which often advance into hard-to-break habits. For those who haven’t experienced addiction, it’s common to naturally feel curious about what prompts individuals to start turning to drug or alcohol use in the first place.

It’s worth remembering that addiction is a disease, meaning that actions are not entirely within their control. Nor does it discriminate, as addiction to alcohol and drugs is not confined to a specific group. Addiction is impartial, impacting individuals across all genders, ages, races, and socio-economic statuses.

See below for a more in-depth exploration of some of the key reasons why substance use and alcohol abuse may start.


Past Trauma

Past trauma is a very common reason why people turn to drugs or excessive alcohol consumption.

Experiencing distressing or traumatic events can profoundly impact a person’s mental, emotional, and even physical health. To cope with or escape from the intense emotional stress and memories related to these experiences, some individuals may turn to drugs or alcohol.

Trauma can stem from a variety of situations, such as physical or sexual abuse, witnessing violence, losing a loved one, or experiencing a severe accident. It can also arise from long-term exposure to high-stress environments, such as in cases of chronic neglect.

One common psychological response to trauma is post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), a condition known to cause consistent nightmares, flashbacks, heightened anxiety, and difficulty sleeping, among other symptoms. Research has consistently shown a strong link between PTSD and substance use disorders. In their struggle to manage these intrusive symptoms, individuals with PTSD might self-medicate with drugs or alcohol, seeking temporary relief or numbness.

Trauma can also disrupt our sense of safety and trust, making the world seem unpredictable and dangerous, whether conscious or subconscious. Drugs and alcohol may offer an illusion of control and an immediate (though temporary and harmful) way to relieve these overwhelming feelings.


Social Gratification

In our society, we often glorify the use of alcohol for almost all occasions.

People will often drink without worrying at small gatherings, parties, and many other social events. Movies and tv shows will often portray drug and alcohol use without any issues and with little to no consequences.

It’s incredibly embedded into our culture and normalised to the point that, due to the glorification of substances, people often turn to alcohol and drugs for social gratification. 

Many people will think that others will either not accept them or view them as ‘the odd one out’ if they are not drinking or taking illicit drugs. As people become more accustomed to the social use of substances, they are then more likely to develop an alcohol or drug addiction.



Curiosity can play a significant role in why people turn to drugs and alcohol. After all, the desire to explore new experiences and sensations is a basic human instinct.

Societal portrayals of drug and alcohol use can heighten this curiosity. Media and popular culture sometimes glamorise substance use, portraying it as a pathway to exciting, enjoyable, or deeply meaningful experiences. This can spark curiosity and lead individuals to try these substances, often without a full understanding of the risks involved.

While curiosity is a natural part of human nature, providing accurate information about the risks and consequences of substance use has always been important, but it’s becoming increasingly more so. Encouraging open, honest discussions about drugs and alcohol can help individuals make responsible decisions about whether and how they choose to satisfy their curiosity.


Easily Accessible

Ease of access is another powerful factor that can influence people’s turn towards drugs and alcohol. In today’s society, assuming you’re of legal age, accessing alcohol is as simple as walking into a nearby shop. As for drugs, both legal substances (such as prescription stimulants or prescription medications) and illegal substances have their distribution networks that make them readily available, depending on your circle. 

Easy access significantly lowers the barriers to initial and ongoing drug use, which can ultimately turn into drug addiction. When drugs or alcohol are just a phone call, a text message or a short walk away, resisting temptation becomes even more difficult. This is especially true for individuals who may be dealing with other risk factors such as stress, trauma, or other mental health problems.

The Internet has also brought about a new form of accessibility. On certain platforms, people are able to trade illicit substances, making drugs more accessible than ever before. 


Peer Pressure

Peer pressure can affect anyone at any point and applies to most people. However, it is more common to happen with younger people. Teenagers are especially vulnerable when it comes to peer pressure. Young people are more prone to peer pressure, with a stronger desire to want to fit in well with the people around them. Teenagers will see a crowd of “cool kids” drinking or smoking weed and may feel like they have to copy them in order to fit in and feel valued. Unfortunately, they may not even grasp just how dangerous these actions are at such a young age. 

It’s not only teenagers. Wanting to fit in with others is a part of human nature. Many people usually do anything in order to impress other people, and, unfortunately, this may sometimes include taking drugs or drinking alcohol. What starts as just one drink can quickly change into a bad habit and could eventually lead to an addiction.

Related article: Popularity & Addiction Linked


Poor Mental Health 

Many people suffer from mental health problems, and not many people will reach out for professional help for these problems. Instead, a lot of people will end up suffering in silence.

Anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, trauma, and a range of other mental health disorders and problems can go undiagnosed for a very long time, which can be a reason why people turn to destructive behaviours, such as binge drinking and illegal drugs.

Many people will turn to alcohol or drugs to help numb the pain and help them avoid their mental health problems. Self-medicating a mental illness with alcohol or drugs is very dangerous. It may cause a temporary reduction in mental health symptoms. However, it is never a solution. As time goes on, people will need larger and more doses of drugs or alcohol to get the same results.

Addictions can cause physical problems and can make psychological problems much worse, and overdosing on drugs is a very common cause of death. That is why people who are suffering from mental health problems should always reach out for professional help rather than turning to drugs or alcohol as a way of self-medicating. 



Rebellion, especially among adolescents and young adults, is another reason people may turn to drugs and alcohol. 

For many, this stage of life is characterised by testing boundaries, asserting independence, and challenging their parents or societal norms. Adolescents exposed to stricter parenting styles may be more inclined to feel a strong urge to rebel against what they are told is good for them, such as drug use or alcohol consumption. 

Drugs and alcohol often come into the picture as symbols of defiance and a means to establish an individual identity, which is completely separate from parents (or other important authority figures in their lives). Substance use might be seen as a way to break the rules, making it appealing to some young people.


Reducing Stress

Stress is something that almost everyone goes through at some point. Daily, even. However, many people haven’t found healthy ways to deal with it. They may struggle to handle and get through stressful situations in an effective way.

The problem with stress is that it can physically affect your body. Stress can put people into fight or flight mode, which causes your heart rate to increase. In extreme cases, it can even cause a spike in a person’s blood pressure. Some people may also struggle with sleep and may have difficulties with their daily life tasks.

Because stress can be so tough to manage, a lot of the time, people will turn to alcohol or drugs as a way of temporarily relieving the pressure. However, this can become a habit and is very dangerous. It is much better to find natural ways to reduce stress. For example, this can involve actively learning breathing exercises, partaking in physical activity, or visiting your doctor for medications.

Related article: The Relationship between Addiction and Stress



Loneliness is a strong force that often drives people toward substance use, including drugs and alcohol. The feeling of being alone or disconnected from others can create a deep emotional pain that some individuals try to alleviate through the use of these substances.

It’s important to understand that loneliness isn’t just about physical solitude. It’s also about feeling emotionally or socially disconnected from others. You can be in a room full of people and still feel intensely lonely. This emotional state can stem from various circumstances, such as moving to a new location, losing someone near and dear, social anxiety, or experiencing a significant life transition, such as divorce.


Career Pressure

In many industries, especially those with competitive cultures, the casual use of drugs and alcohol can be surprisingly normalised within a workplace setting. People can feel immense pressure from work, which can lead to them developing an addiction.

There are many reasons that can lead to someone taking drugs and alcohol as a way to alleviate work-related pressure. It could be driven by a desire to enhance their performance, to escape from the stress and demands of the job, to numb the feelings of failure or self-doubt, or even as a way to fit in or cope with social expectations amongst co-workers.

The problem is, relying on substances is not a sustainable or healthy option. We will all likely feel work pressures every now and then, so finding alternative methods to relieve and cope with the pressure is essential not only for your well-being but also for your success in your career.



Another reason why many individuals turn to drugs and alcohol is simply convenience. Today, all across the UK, the accessibility of these substances is startlingly high. 

Substance use, for some, is a readily available means of escaping or coping with their problems. It’s a solution that requires little effort, especially when compared to methods such as therapy or making tough lifestyle changes – which demand time, resources, and personal commitment. 

Individuals may view substances as a convenient shortcut to feelings of relaxation and euphoria or as a way of suppressing negative emotions, completely overlooking the need for healthier, more sustainable coping strategies.


Thrill Seeking

Some people live with very little fear of consequence, with the mindset that rules are to be broken. A “you only live once” mentality, if you will. 

With the exception of alcohol and nicotine, the majority of commonly used drugs are illegal. Using illegal substances can also be dangerous, and those looking for a thrill will already know this. 

Many people may commit crimes or break the law just because it feels exciting for them at the time, and that feeling in itself can become quite addictive. 

For people with an impulsive nature, drinking and taking drugs will provide that dopamine rush they’ve been looking for. Thrill seekers and drug users will feel euphoric and invincible until the drugs start to leave their system.

Substance abuse is not the only way that a person can increase their levels of dopamine. Consuming sugary or fatty foods can provide this same hormone. Laughing with friends or having a romantic encounter can also provide this feeling. Unfortunately, people who use drugs will simply do just about anything to heighten the dopamine in their system, even if they end up in trouble with the police or with injuries.


Loss and Grief

The pain of losing someone dear is excruciating. It’s one of the most painful experiences we can ever go through, and we all go through it at some point in our lives. Sadly, for some people, the burden of loss is just too much – pushing them into developing an addiction.

During a time of loss, many people will turn to alcohol and drugs as a way of distracting them from reality. They don’t want to feel what they’re feeling or remember that their loved one has passed away. It’s understandable but incredibly dangerous. Grief is often described as being felt in waves. So, when that wave of emotion rolls around – it’s much better just to feel whatever you feel and know that your emotions are valid rather than trying to numb the inevitable pain temporarily.



Boredom is one of the most common reasons why people will turn to alcohol abuse or drugs. This is also the reason why many people recovering from addictions will relapse.

Boredom doesn’t just happen when you don’t have anything to do. It can also sneak up on you when you are feeling trapped or isolated. Unfortunately, when most people are bored, they will often find any way to escape the boredom.

They may use drugs or drink to help cope with breaking up the monotony. In the beginning, drinking and drugs may seem fun and exciting. However, it can quickly become a dangerous habit which can eventually then turn into a full-blown addiction. It’s important to break the cycle of addiction. However, this is extremely difficult. When you become bored, it’s much better to hang out with friends or find yourself a new hobby to prevent you from turning to drugs or alcohol.


Get Help With Your Substance Abuse

If you are struggling with abusing substances, it’s important that you reach out for professional help as soon as possible to prevent the problems from becoming any worse. Get in touch with us today to find out more about how to get into a rehab treatment programme. We will be happy to answer any questions you may have and give you the advice you need to get started with your recovery – call today on 0800 001 4070.