The use of illegal drugs involves many long- and short-term risks. Do not endanger your health: do not use illegal drugs! If, however, you do in fact use illegal drugs, it is advisable to be supported or accompanied by some other person who can call the emergency services in the case of sudden severe illness.

Why do people take drugs?

Using drugs can be motivated by multiple causes which may be difficult to determine, such as:

  • the simple desire for pleasure or out of curiosity
  • and/or the need to overcome a feeling of distress 
  • and/or group pressure
  • and/or the availability of drugs, the existence of a market.

Certain people can be more inclined to the use of drugs because they are predisposed genetically.

Desire for pleasure and curiosity about new experiences

The young are particularly eager to have new experiences: they are mostly looking for pleasure and are curious to test the limits of their bodies. 

Need to overcome a feeling of distress

Psychological, social, professional or physical discontent is both one of the risks and a cause for the use of drugs.

  • Psychological distress: this can occur at any time of life, but the use of drugs is particularly symptomatic of the distress experienced by adolescents and young adults. They may be tempted to take drugs because they feel insecure, misunderstood, isolated, excluded, sad, because they have difficulties at school or they want to avoid their responsibilities. 
  • Social distress: poverty, precariousness and family problems can contribute to building a general context of instability and loss of reference points. There are difficulties in finding work and paying bills; the family is no longer sufficiently supportive because it has been weakened by divorce, domestic violence or financial problems. A person who feels excluded by society or abandoned by his/her family can try to compensate by abusing drugs. Such persons are generally fragile and easily influenced and can be manipulated by malicious people.
  • Distress in the workplace: there is much evidence now of the pressure suffered at work. The requirements of productivity and profitability can lead some people to take stimulant drugs to help them to reach their professional objectives. 
  • Physical distress: certain people may take drugs to relieve chronic pain, the spasms of multiple sclerosis, nausea or lack of appetite due to cancer or AIDS. There is on-going discussion about the recognition of medication on the basis of THC, particularly in the form of a spray (Sativex).

Group pressure

Groups pressure may facilitate the use of drugs as well, simply by imitating others.

Availability of drugs

Drug abuse may also be facilitated by their availability on the market. This is particularly the case in Belgium with regard to cannabis and synthetic drugs (amphetamines, ecstasy).

Sciensano collects data and analyses the consumption of drugs, the drug market, the consequences for health, requests for treatment and the policies implemented with regard to drugs in Belgium.

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