Concept of the Month -- August 2002

Chronic Drug Abuse -- For "Escape" or  Excitement?

Drug users often claim they use drugs to escape.  Asked what they are escaping, they frequently complain about stress, bad conditions in which they live or a particular situation which is adverse at the moment.  I have found that for people who make drug use a major part of their way of life, the key factor is not the escape but what drugs facilitate.  If a person is criminally inclined, he may commit more daring crimes or more serious crimes.  Drugs knock out barriers (deterrents) to doing what he had only fantasized.  Drugs may promote sexual conquests or enhance a sense of power and control.  Many drug users come from what might be considered rather ordinary, if not advantaged, positions in life.  What they seek to escape is the burdens of responsibility, the obligations that others want them to fulfill.  They refuse to live in the world as responsible human beings.  Drugs offer the excitement starting with the thought about obtaining drugs and embracing every aspect thereafter -- the risks in procuring drugs, the thrill of the deal -- the people, the places.  All this is not about escape.  It is an unending search for excitement.

Stanton E. Samenow, Ph.D.

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