Factors that affect and may lead to the use of psychoactive substances
The use or abuse of drugs by someone is not the result of a factor or a particular situation that if we prevent this person will be saved. It does not suddenly appear in someone's life, nor does anyone decide that tomorrow he will start using drugs. We would say that the elements that lead there are probably developed from childhood-adolescence, even if they are expressed in middle adulthood. This is because during the childhood-adolescence period, the values, the principles, the ethics and the patterns of behavior with which the person will proceed in its life are primarily created.
No single causative factor leads to the use of psychoactive substances and of course no one prevents it. A particularly complex combination of family, social, cultural, genetic factors, as well as the dynamic elements of the personality of each person separately, make up the puzzle that facilitates the use or prevents it.
Family plays an important role. A dysfunctional – chaotic family environment often affects the way a child-adolescent will structure and internalize the family’s core values. The parents who use drugs themselves eventually push their child to drug use. Domestic violence, systematic neglect and indifference teach the individual to adopt these types of behaviors (to survive mentally) and/or to try to find a way to “escape” from them (psychoactive substances as a way out). Sometimes parents have unrealistic expectations of their children and sometimes instead of teachers and companions, they are experienced as authoritarian figures of omniscience and infallibility, behaviors that can induce children-adolescents to experience intense mental pain, rejection, low self-esteem and inability to get along and communicate their needs, thus resorting to the fictitiously easy escape of another falsely influenced reality, infused with psychoactive substances.
All the above leaks into strong emotional ties built in support and respect, that are weapons important to each family across the battle with addictions. The social context in which the person lives and grows plays an important role. In an environment in which narcotic substances are easily available and combined social tolerance and indifference, where the person has a lot of friends-known users, the chances of this person trying or experimenting with some of them naturally increase.
We should note that experimenting with a substance is also the prechamber of getting addicted to it, without proving that anyone who tries will become a user, but it certainly increases the chances, because by now the specific substance is not a simple reference or discussion but a recorded and realized experience of life.
The social exclusion and alienation experienced by some groups of people, combined with the lack of supportive social structures, lead to substance use. Over consumerism, the continuous effort to acquire more and more and the inability to be thankful for those already acquired, in connection with the lack of opportunities for professional rehabilitation and the inability of living a self-sustaining quality, especially at young ages, creates continuous psychopathological anxiety and pressure, which can be manifested in various ways even with the use of psychostimulants.
All the above certainly have a significant impact on whether someone will “experiment” with a substance in the first place. But we should emphasize on the particular characteristics of why someone accepts and someone else rejects the use. This is nothing but the personal choice of the individual and the particularly idiosyncratic or central elements of his personality. Personality factors such as: lack or inability to communicate, low self-esteem, lack of boundaries and/or impulsivity, inability to manage emotional situations or frustrations, constant search for happiness and pleasure, antisocial-aggressive behavior with indifference for context, rules and others in general , are some of the elements that are considered factors that facilitate the use of substances.
In a world where, unfortunately or fortunately (for oncology patients, for all surgeries, etc.) there are drugs, it is unrealistic to think that our children, young people or even ourselves will not meet them in our path. The handling of the situation with phrase like “don’t do it, it will kill you” has been shown to have ineffective results. The understanding of the problems that the person experiences (familial-social-cultural-interpersonal) and their acceptance, accompanied from a continuous effort to manage them and possible adapt to the constantly changing conditions of its life, the definition of goals, limits, exits, but also a supportive framework, are elements that should concern all of us in order to improve in all areas of our lives.
When it comes to drugs, the goal is the conscious rejection of them as a lifestyle. I don’t use them not because they are bad or because it hasn’t happened (yet), but because I know what they are and I have much better things to do, because I live everyday of my life and I don’t want to waste it, because I want to express myself and when I do I am understood, because I try and when I succeed they recognize me, because I exist!
Supervising Psychiatrist, Mental Health Center of Sotiria General Hospital - P.A.D.A. Member