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The War on Drugs and reasons why people use illegal substances?

Updated on February 19, 2013

So what are drugs and why are they used?

The so-called "War on Drugs" has been going on for many years but hasn't got very far with stopping the problem of drug abuse. All over the world there are billions of drug addicts and both legal and illegal drugs cause serious problems. Fellow-hubber Teresa Schultz has requested that I write a hub with the title Why do people use drugs? so here goes.

First of all we need to define what drugs are. There are many types: "soft drugs", "hard drugs", illegal drugs, medical drugs, stimulant drugs, opiate and painkiller drugs, hallucinogenic drugs, tranquilisers, hypnotic drugs or sleeping pills, and commonly used things like coffee, alcohol and tobacco that are really drugs too.

As far as we can tell people have always used drugs. This is nothing new and the term "War on Drugs" is just a label that gets used by politicians and the media.

Drugs are used to relief pain both mental and physical, to inspire creativity, for experimental purposes, to gain energy, to relieve stress, relaxation and to get sleep, to experience the world in a new way, because it is part of a religion such as Rastafarianism where followers all smoke marijuana ("Herb"), peer pressure, in youth to show how rebellious you are, because of peer pressure and to overcome social difficulties such as shyness.

Drug photos

A close-up image of a dried, potent, Cannabis bud. Type Mountain Jam. (Source Wikipedia)
A close-up image of a dried, potent, Cannabis bud. Type Mountain Jam. (Source Wikipedia)
Hub challenge
Hub challenge

Types of drug

Drugs can be divided into several groups: the stimulants like caffeine and amphetamines, sedatives or hypnotics such as Mogadon, Quaaludes (Mandrax) and any of the barbiturates, painkillers and opiates such as morphine and codeine, minor tranquilisers such as Valium (Diazepam) and major tranquilisers such as Largactil and Halpoperidol (Haldol).

There are also mind-altering drugs that could be termed hallucinogens, entheogens or psychoactive substances. Drugs in this category include LSD or "acid", psilocybin in magic mushrooms, ecstasy and mescaline.

Some drugs have varying effects depending on the amount taken and if consumed in conjunction with other drugs, food or drink.

Medical or pharmaceutical drugs also include anti-virals, antibiotics, anti-depressants, anti-convulsants and many other categories. Some medical drugs are used illegally for their effects. Some prescribed drugs are used to treat addictions to others both legal and illegal.

It is a fact that most people use drugs even if they may claim otherwise. Drinking coffee or tea is not thought of as drug-taking but it is. So is drinking wine or beer.

A drug culture

We live in a drug culture. Many singers and musicians use drugs or have done. How many really famous rock bands or singer-songwriters can you name that haven't done so?

Much the same can be said for actors, writers, poets, artists, and increasingly we hear of drugs being used in sports and the penalties against those caught doing so.

Young people are told not to take drugs and then they see that their heroes and heroines use these substances. They may know of famous people who have used drugs for years such as Howard Marks aka "Mr Nice" who was famous first for being a convicted "drugs baron."

Marks made his fortune and notoriety dealing cannabis. He has openly smoked it since he was released from prison and is an outspoken advocate of legalising the drug.

Nowadays he is a best-selling author a DJ, public speaker, media star and a film has just gone on general release about his life.

Again with cannabis, fans of reggae music and a singer-songwriter such as the late great Bob Marley, know that Rastas smoke "herb" regularly so they may seek to follow their example.

Some authors such as the late William Burroughs and Hunter S. Thompson made no secret of their drug use.

Drugs such as alcohol are part of a social tradition in many western societies even though the evidence of harm caused by alcohol is overwhelming. Smoking tobacco until recently was also a 'normal' social custom and still is for those smokers who resist the new laws and campaigns.

It is common knowledge that many celebrities use cocaine, and part of the reason for this is because they can afford it. Drugs and wealth go together just as much as drugs and poverty.

Celebrities actually benefit from their drug use in some ways. For example, someone like the late former-Beatle John Lennon owed a lot of his creativity to drug use. How would The Beatles have created their psychedelic era classics like Sgt Pepper or Abbey Road if they had not been taking LSD?

There are many drug songs such as Heroin by The Velvet Underground, Codine Blues by Janis Joplin, Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds by The Beatles and many more.

If a star goes into rehab they gain a lot more exposure in the press and if they manage to beat their habit then they are lauded for their great achievements.

In many parts of the world the cash crops that are grown are not food crops but plants that produce drugs. Cocaine from the coca plant, opium and its derivatives such as codeine, morphine and heroin from opium poppies, and of course marijuana, tobacco and coffee.

Vineyards cover large areas of the world as do hop fields to produce the ingredients for wine and beer.

Until the world reaches some sort of utopia, if ever it does, there will always be a large number of people using drubs, legally or illegally.

Copyright © 2010 Steve Andrews. All Rights Reserved.

Bob Marley Talks - Alcohol vs. Herb

The Velvet Underground - Heroin (song only)


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    • Bard of Ely profile image

      Steve Andrews 6 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal

      Thank you for your comments!

    • profile image

      Baghead Kelly 6 years ago

      You probably could have mentioned the Yaqui indians and their use of peyote for religious enlightenment but you've written an interesting piece. History shows that these things go in and out of favor and methinks that we just a tad puritan at the moment.

    • Bard of Ely profile image

      Steve Andrews 7 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal

      I know you are right about that, Ethel! I have come across such people!

    • ethel smith profile image

      Eileen Kersey 7 years ago from Kingston-Upon-Hull

      Sometimes people feel it is right for them at a certain point in their life and would never dream of doing drugs again

    • Bard of Ely profile image

      Steve Andrews 7 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal

      Thank you, Green Lotus!

    • Green Lotus profile image

      Hillary 7 years ago from Atlanta, GA

      Another great hub Bard. You answered the question perfectly without editorializing or getting into what's correct or incorrect, leaving us to air our thoughts and opinions within the comments (which I am enjoying as well). I'm pleased SteveoMc reminded us that while drugs will always be available, it's up to the user whether it becomes experimentation, recreational, or dependence.

    • Bard of Ely profile image

      Steve Andrews 7 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal

      Thank you, Micky, SteveoMc, and Martin, for your comments! Yes, there's a lot of smokers over here of cigarettes and joints!

    • profile image

      Candide delMilano 7 years ago

      Yo Steve,

      1. " Reality is for people who can't cope with drugs".

      2. I'd rather spend 24 hours in a room full of people who'd been smoking "pot" than a room full of people who'd been necking spirits.

      3. Funny how people gravitate towards their own. The last time is was in the Canary Islands (about 8 years ago) I couldn't move for people rolling joints.

      All good things,


    • SteveoMc profile image

      SteveoMc 7 years ago from Pacific NorthWest

      I have known for a long time that almost everyone uses some form of drugs. I use a lot of ibuprofen and coffee and want to smoke anytime I can......and a lot of other stuff.

      Fortunately, I have a smoking policy that curtails my smoking habits quite a bit, I don't buy cigarettes, I can only smoke when someone gives me a cigarette, they are so expensive that no one is giving them away. I have to wait until the smoker is drunk. Consequently, I am trying to get one of my smoking friends drunk tonight so that I might pilfer a cigarette.

      I might add that there are levels of drug use that are worth noting: experimentation, recreational, dependence. Most people do not reach dependence and the harm done is marginal. I have always been recreational in my use of most things, that is I could use pot or alcohol once every couple of months and then not think about it again for a few weeks.

      Nicotine is another story and I am completely addicted. That is why I have to have such a strict policy with it. Although I am starting to think that I might be drinking a little more than usual now.

    • Micky Dee profile image

      Micky Dee 7 years ago

      Everybody takes drugs. I try to limit everything that doesn't help me produce and be a better person. If that is food I eliminate that food. If it puts you to sleep like alcohol you should cut back. We get unconscious every night. If it causes dependence and continued sadness cut it out. If it causes obesity let's stop. If it cause you to be a politician, for God's sake- stop!

    • Bard of Ely profile image

      Steve Andrews 7 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal

      You're welcome! Thank you for posting, Dallas!

    • dallas93444 profile image

      Dallas W Thompson 7 years ago from Bakersfield, CA

      Your hub was useful in learning more about "drugs." Our "instant" gratification norm creates an environment whereby there are those who need "drugs" and need it now... Each of us are different as you had indicated. thanks for writing this hub.

    • Bard of Ely profile image

      Steve Andrews 7 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal

      Thanks for your feedback too, John!

    • lightning john profile image

      lightning john 7 years ago from Florida

      Hi Bard, I was a teen in the mid 70s, so Ive been around the drug culture a lot!

      There are so many different types of users like you say.

      Iv'e known successful company managers that used introvenious drugs on the week ending, and come Monday you would never know they did.

      Then I've seen other people that just got totally consumed by the effects, and lost all reality. The major similarity that I have seen is, they all of had some form of abuse in their life time, that they do not, or cannot, deal with being in their own head.

      It's like they say, " you can't run away from yourself!"

    • Bard of Ely profile image

      Steve Andrews 7 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal

      Thank you, Marshall, for some excellent feedback there - you ought to do a hub on the subject too!

      And yes, Pcunix, I agree that the laws are crazy. It was difficult to believe that magic mushrooms would be made a Class A drug but they did it! And they grow all over the place! I could imagine some very crazy court cases that could be set up with big land-owners, city councils and farmers on trial for cultivating and being in possession of an illegal fungus on their property!

    • Pcunix profile image

      Tony Lawrence 7 years ago from SE MA

      Well, if coffee is a drug, yes, I am a drug user :-)

      I think our drug laws are idiotic. Yes, some people do things under the influence that are not good - so punish them for that! Punish them harder if they keep using drugs and keep doing stupid things. But many, many people use drugs responsibly.

      I detest laws that punish people for what they MIGHT do.

    • Marshall Hammond profile image

      Marshall Hammond 7 years ago from Portland, Oregon

      Good hub, Bard of Ely. I think you took a very fair and impartial approach to the drug use issue. I think the majority of perceptions surrounding drug use are engineered by big pharma backed mass media outlets, so that there are many institutionalized perceptions of what constitutes wrongful drug activity and what doesn't. There is very strong evidence that "drug use" has and always will play a very important role in human experience at large, or at least in terms of cultural evolution and structure. In the U.S., much of societal structure functions because of perceived norms such as excessive caffeine stimulation at work accompanied by excessive alcohol consumption during leisure periods. That seems to constitute one set of basic norm- which is often accompanied by ever increasing behavioral modifiers such as anti-depressants like prozac and stimulants such as ritalin.

      I think the real "international drug trade" is controlled by the social engineering caste, who by and large determine what populations need to be controlled by certain substances to meet certain ends. The story of 'Freeway Ricky Ross," and the CIA, as reported by the mysteriously deceased reporter Gary Webb shed more light on the real status of the drug culture and how it benefits certain parties.

    • Bard of Ely profile image

      Steve Andrews 7 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal

      Thanks, Tony!

    • Tony Flanigan profile image

      Tony Flanigan 7 years ago from East London, South Africa

      Somewhere, some time ago, I read an interview with John Lennon (after the beatle split up), and he was asked pertinently where thr inspiration for Lucy in the sky came from. He declined to answer that question. Had he mentioned a childhood friend, there would be no questions...

      Just because you dig someone as a musician and artist does not mean you must deny any vices they may have had. High profile musicians are actually just normal people, like us, with extraordinary gifts, don't deny them a normal life, with normal longings, desires, and needs.

      You go Bard, I'm right behind you, from my own little nicotine and caffeine cloud. :)

    • Bard of Ely profile image

      Steve Andrews 7 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal

      Justom, I stand by what I have said and I am sure many people are influenced to smoke dope because they think its cool because their hero Bob Marley smoked it, also anyone in the Rasta culture is likely to do so as part of that belief system. I was answering the question: why do people take drugs? These are reasons. Bob Marley is one of my favourite singer-songwriters but I could never be a rasta because I don't get on well with cannabis at all and used to wonder how people can smoke so much of it. I concluded they are not me! As for the Beatles' song, the whole arrangement is psychedelic as well as the lyrical material. The cover story for drug songs has been used before - The Shamen's hit Ebenezer Goode, for example, in which it was claimed they were not promoting "Es" (Ecstasy) but it was obvious to fans and anyone who knew anything about the band that this was the case.

      Thank you, SomewayOuttaHere! Yes, I think it is very hypocritical of people who say drugs are bad whilst they use drugs themselves! Alvaro96paul, some people have a bad time from cannabis and have no problem giving it up - well, I did, but that was my own stupidity in thinking it was OK for me because so many other people enjoy the stuff. Lorlie6 just posted in my hub about bad trips that it made her paranoid, and that is one bad effect I got from it too.

    • profile image

      alvaro96paul 7 years ago

      I think people have the hardest time giving up weed.

    • SomewayOuttaHere profile image

      SomewayOuttaHere 7 years ago from TheGreatGigInTheSky

      you covered all bases....some people tend to think they are 'drug free' somehow.....and point out one particular drug...and don't seem to see the bigger picture somehow.

    • justom profile image

      justom 7 years ago from 41042

      Sure Rastas smoke ganja but in the context of the hub it sounds like they're all about that. True Rastas are a very spiritual lot and I think some don't understand that. As for the song, I guess everyone can judge for themselves. Peace!!

    • Bard of Ely profile image

      Steve Andrews 7 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal

      I think that was just a cover story - the song's lyrics are blatantly psychedelic as were their other songs at that period. What is there to research about Rastas on this? They smoke cannabis do they not? I pòsted a video here with Bob Marley extolling its virtues!

    • justom profile image

      justom 7 years ago from 41042

      You might want to research a bit more about Rastas and "Ganja" use and Lucy in the sky was much more mundane of a story. Lucy was one of Julian Lennon's childhood friends and the lyrics (basicly) came straight from a childs view of life. Good hub though, one of my favorite quotes is "Reality is for people who can't handle drugs". We have to someday quit telling the kids how evil drugs are. I know all the hype just makes the problem worse than it needs to be. Peace!!

    • Bard of Ely profile image

      Steve Andrews 7 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal

      Thanks for posting, Tony! You're welcome, Teresa! I got another hub for my current hub challenge out of it too!

    • Teresa Schultz profile image

      Teresa Schultz 7 years ago from East London, in South Africa

      re your last comment: I know all about that coffee, caffeinated drinks, and smoking (cigarettes), lol!

      Thanks so much for answering my request to write this hub - and so quickly too - I was thinking I would take a few days, at least, if somebody requested I wrote a hub, now, you've got me all worried, as I would feel bad if I could not avoid taking longer than 6 hours.

      You covered the topic so well - a true writer, who seems to write with such ease. Well done.

    • Tony Flanigan profile image

      Tony Flanigan 7 years ago from East London, South Africa

      lol! U bust me. I use loads of coffee and nicotine.

    • Bard of Ely profile image

      Steve Andrews 7 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal

      I thought in 2002 when I spent a week on this island that people didn't use drugs here apart from there being a lot of smokers of tobacco about. I spent most of the time in the company of non-drinking and non-drug users. When I came over two years later to live I found that in reality cannabis smoking is very common here and there are loads of alcoholics on the island though usually among the British residents not the Spanish. But coffee and caffeinated drinks are the norm as is smoking!

    • Tony Flanigan profile image

      Tony Flanigan 7 years ago from East London, South Africa

      I knew lotsa folk did drugs, but never quite realized how widespread it is. K, I gotta admit I only ever saw real live grass recently. Lol, not because I was sheltered, far from it, I was just never that curious...

    • Bard of Ely profile image

      Steve Andrews 7 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal

      Gosh that was quick! lol Thank you!

    • profile image

      IlluminatmatriX 7 years ago

      Thanks alot my dear Bard of Ely :)


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