I give many talks around the country and possibly the question I get asked the most is why do people, particularly young people, take drugs? My usual response is to ask them to examine their own drug use -“ whether that be alcohol, tobacco or even coffee drinking -“ and the answer usually comes down to pleasure. People take drugs because they derive some sort of fun or pleasurable experience from it -“ whether it calms them down, relaxes them, supplies energy or gives them confidence.

One of the very first times I appeared on television was on the Today program. I was interviewed by Liz Hayes about ecstasy use and after asking me about the negative effects of the drug she asked me why anyone would take such a substance. My response was na? to say the least -“ quite innocently I said that they enjoyed the effects and had fun on the drug. The Channel 9 switchboard subsequently rang hot with complaints -“ how dare someone say that drug use was fun!

Different people take different drugs for different reasons. Most people who have little contact with illicit drugs believe that many of those who experiment with substances such as cannabis, ecstasy and of course heroin have some bizarre psychological problems or a terrible life and that they are using to block out the pain that they are experiencing. Admittedly there are some people who use drugs to remove themselves from their life and these are usually the people who become problematic drug users.

Although some people derive some sort of enjoyment from drug use, there are also costs -“ for those who make the decision to use drugs, they believe the perceived benefits outweigh the negatives. Unfortunately, the pleasurable effects do not last forever -“ as time goes on we can build up a tolerance to the drug and things change. This is why many people simply stop using drugs -“ they simply don’t have the fun on them that they used to.

Some people don’t stop when things go askew. Dependence, both physical and/or psychological, can develop, making it difficult for people to break out of what can be a very destructive cycle.

Currently, one of our greatest problems is that the age of initiation into drug use is getting younger and younger. We know that the younger a person begins using drugs, the greater the problems they will have in the future. When we attempt to give drug education to anyone it is imperative that we give them accurate information -“ this includes the reason why most people use drugs. If we don’t acknowledge that some people enjoy the effects of drugs, how will we ever appear credible enough to be able to challenge them with the negative consequences?

Remember: if you do not want any negative consequences, do not use the drug, and no matter how many times you have used a substance, never be blas?

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