By Trisha Gibson, MA, LPC, LICDC, Forensics/AoD Program Director For Woodland Centers, Inc.

A question behavioral health professionals are most often asked is, “Why do people start using drugs?” The answer is not always a simple one to answer because each person is different. However, clinical practice has revealed some common reasons.

1. To end pain. Physical and psychological pain lead individuals to begin using substances as a means to reduce or eliminate pain.

➔ Physical Pain

​Physical pain can be caused by illness or injury. In many cases, individuals who have had a ​surgery, an accident, or a type of illness, started out being legally prescribed pain medication to ​help manage pain. Some people are more genetically prone to addiction or have additional ​environmental risk factors of addiction, such as poor social supports, lack of financial resources, ​lack of basic needs met, etc., increasing the likelihood of abuse. There is a misconception that ​because it was prescribed by a doctor means it is safe. That is not always true. Be your own ​advocate and be an active participant in your health care by talking to your doctor about your ​potential risk factors to determine what medication is best for you.

➔ Psychological Pain

Likewise, psychological, or emotional, pain can be just as debilitating as physical pain. Trauma, ​anxiety, depression, anger, and fluctuations in mood, such as bipolar disorder, can impact an ​individual’s level of daily functioning. This type of pain can lead some individuals to self-​medicate, or to use substances as a means to calm anxiety, level mood, and numb uncomfortable thoughts and feelings.

​In our culture, we gravitate towards instant gratification and instant results. For individuals that ​may not have protective factors in place such as social supports, financial resources, ​employment, and personal coping skills, it may seem as though options to ease psychological ​pain are limited.

2. Some drugs are legal. According to recent data from the Ohio Substance Abuse Monitoring Network (OSAM), alcohol and marijuana (recently medically legalized in Ohio) continue to be among the area’s largest substances of abuse. Despite the controversy on the legalization of marijuana, scientific research continues to show that marijuana use does in fact often, although not always, lead to illicit substance use. In addition, according to the Ohio Department of Public Safety, in 2015, there were a total of 39 alcohol-related car accidents in Gallia County and 25 in Meigs County. Just because a substance is legal does not mean there are not risks.

3. Peer pressure. Lastly, peer pressure does sometimes play a role in an individual’s decision to begin using substances. Especially in adolescents and young adults, it is common to desire to fit in with peers. Prevention is the key. It is important to talk to your children about the dangers and risks of using drugs and alcohol. Parents can go to www.drugfree.org for resources to help in talking with children about drugs and alcohol use.

No one wants to be addicted to substances. There are always reasons why individuals begin using drugs or alcohol. If you or someone you know is struggling with drug or alcohol use, or if you are a family member or friend in need of support, reach out to our team at Woodland Centers. You can contact our Meigs Clinic at 740-992-2192 or our Gallia Clinic at 740-446-5500 to schedule an appointment.

Trisha Gibson, MA, LPC, LICDC, is the Forensics/AoD Program Director For Woodland Centers, Inc.