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Psychology and Mental Health

Chicago, USA
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Motives for drug use among light and heavy users

Author(s): Nail RL, Gunderson EK, Kolb D

Abstract

Specific reasons reported for use of six illicit drugs—cannabis, opiates, hallucinogens, amphetamines, barbiturates, and cocaine—were obtained from 997 entrants to a Navy drug rehabilitation facility. Reasons were divided into two categories: hedonistic and therapeutic. Subjects were classified by level of involvement based upon light or heavy use of each drug.

Reasons given by both light and heavy users of hallucinogens and cocaine were predominantly hedonistic. Heightened sentience and “psychedelic” experiences appeared to be the objective of hallucinogen users whereas heightened sexual pleasure was the primary motive for cocaine users.

Reasons for using amphetamines, barbiturates, and opiates were almost exclusively therapeutic among heavy users. Amphetamines were used to improve functioning and relieve depression, and barbiturates to relieve anxiety. Reasons for using opiates included both of these components, and opiate users appeared to be seeking a pervasive feeling of well being as well as “escape from reality.”

Reasons for cannabis use were diverse and suggested desires for intoxication, relaxation, social belongingness, and heightened sensory awareness.

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