From a writing prompt on our Honors Psychology Discussion Board:
Why do people first begin using drugs? Because it is easier for teens to buy drugs than alcohol. Ba dum ching! No, not really. While the above is sadly true, there is no one line answer for this question. I believe that a variety of factors play into the decision to use drugs, assuming that illegal intoxicants are what we are focusing on.
Our first exposures to drugs as a concept are as small children. “Take this,” we instruct our children. “It will make you feel better.” Then we gulp a caffeinated, sugary soda to prepare to stay up all night with them. We begin our mornings with coffee and end our evenings with a nightcap. We celebrate with wine and champagne. We step out to smoke a cigarette while the television blares out commercials advertising magical pills to fix all of life’s problems, from depression to erectile dysfunction. We take those pills, and our children see it. We prime our children for 'better living through chemistry'. Is it any surprise that they seek out what we show them?
I firmly believe that both biology and environment play significant roles in addiction. Biology is a key factor in addiction. Caffeine addicts suffer from headaches when they refrain, just as a junkie suffers from the shakes. Human beings are built to follow our biological imperatives, and once your body is convinced that you need a chemical as much as you need food and water, it is just as hard to abstain from that drug as it would be from food and water, and can be almost as dangerous. However, environment is also important. Once upon a time, smoking was as accepted as coffee drinking. You could smoke in your doctor’s office, and he probably did the same. Now you cannot even smoke in many bars. That says quite a bit about how social mores affect addiction. In addition, your home life plays a large role in addiction. If your personal life is stressful, you are more likely to reach out for a chemical solution, and more likely to become addicted to your chemical of choice. Together, these factors make the cause of addiction a complicated topic, with no real answers.