The Psychology Of Drug and Alcohol Use

Motivation is the subjective value of a goal times the perceived likelihood of success. If there is no value despite the likelihood of success, there will be no motivation. If there is a huge value but little likelihood of success, then there will still be no motivation. Using drugs and/or alcohol is a similar process: how much value does the user put on drugs (drugs will make me happy or relieve anxiety) and what is the user’s likelihood of success they will get their desired outcome from the drugs. This is the fundamental basis as to why people elect to drink or choose drugs.

But how do people determine a drug or alcohol’s value? There are 5 things that people take into consideration when places a value on drugs or alcohol even if they have already been in a DUI or DWI accident. These include past experiences, personality, stress, social norm and environment. Let’s dive a bit deeper into each of these factors.

Past Experiences 

When deciding whether or not to partake in drugs and alcohol, a user will reflect on past experiences with the aforementioned drug or alcohol. If their bodies reacted well the previous times, this will increase their motivation to partake again. However, bad experienced usually lower the “likelihood of success” and usually deter people from partaking. How many nights have you prayed to the porcelain god and said, “I am never going to drink again!”?


People who are impulsive tend to make decisions without thinking of the long-term consequences of their actions. People with these types of personalities are more motivated to partake in libations because they do not care about the likelihood of success. They just place all of their decision makings on the value of the drug or alcohol.


If a user is stressed out they are also more likely to partake in drugs or alcohol because the drug takes away any perceived anxiety or stress with a high likelihood of success for it to work temporarily. However, this line of thought can be dangerous as it is not a healthy long-term solution.

Socil Norm

We have all heard of peer pressure but social norm refers to what is acceptable in society as a whole. For example, it’s socially normal to drink wine on a Friday night as there is no work the next day. People will do these norms without any thinking as it has become ingrained within them.


Environment plays a huge factor on how decisions are made. Growing up in a household that drinks versus growing up in a sober home will affect the child’s behavior in the future when it comes to their own drinking habits. One family places a much higher value on drugs and alcohol than the other family.