There are many different types of drugs, and people use them for all sorts of different reasons. Drugs are any sort of substance a person can introduce to the body that changes the way the body functions. Some drugs help us heal, some help us think more clearly, and some alter our perceptions of the world radically, shifting our brain chemistry. In medicine, drugs range from fairly mild drugs that can be purchased over the counter, to much more extreme drugs that require a prescription. There are many different types of recreational drugs as well, and may be completely unregulated, regulated but legal, or entirely illegal.
Many people do drugs on a daily basis, but since they are legal and pervasive, they don’t think of it that way. Caffeine, for example, is a fairly potent psychotropic drug and stimulant, and many people ingest it daily. Coffee is the most used psychotropic in the world, with an average consumption in the United States of more than three cups each day. Alcohol is another commonly used drug, and although it is regulated in many countries, it is widely used. The nicotine found in cigarettes is yet another example of commonly used legal drugs, although it is also often regulated in many developed nations.
Often when people ask why others take drugs, what they mean is why people do drugs that are illegal. For example, in the United States marijuana has been illegal for many decades, yet remains a commonly used drug. People generally use marijuana for much the same reasons they use alcohol, to relax and experience a slightly altered state of consciousness. Although illegal, many people in the United States tend to treat marijuana much the same way they treated alcohol during Prohibition, as something to be hidden, but not avoided.
In many cases, people take drugs because they are trying to escape from the world in some way. Drugs like heroin or morphine can help dull pain and thought, releasing pleasurable chemicals in the body that make the user feel like their problems are drifting away. In other cases, people might do drugs like speed or cocaine to feel a rush of energy well in excess of that given by caffeine, and a feeling of sharpness and togetherness that may be lacking in their daily lives. These feelings can be very emotionally addictive, but may also build up a physical addiction that can be incredibly difficult to break. This leads users to feel actively bad when not taking the drugs, leading to a feedback loop that encourages yet more and more drug use.
In other situations, people do drugs not as a recreational vehicle, but as a path to a different state of consciousness. People may choose to take hallucinogens like LSD or mescaline, for example, not simply to have a good time, but to try to expand their understanding of the world and their own lives. Drugs like peyote or ayhuasca may be used in spiritual practices by established religions or spiritual traditions, as part of their experience of god or the divine.