It has occurred to me that the motivations for drug use extend far beyond the desire to feel the effects of the drug. Some motivations for drug use may be in how drug use impacts the behavior of other people, who are not the subject of the drug use but rather, the subject of the subject of the drug use. That isn’t a typo. These epiphanies come from observing my mother through her use of drugs.
The experience of observing someone else consume drugs is in itself intoxicating. The subjective effects of observing drug users depend on the lens that the observer of the user looks through. These lenses we filter our perception of drug users are often granted to us from culture. There is the notion that drug use is immoral. There is the idea that drugs are dangerous. Observing the drug user will commonly feel emotionally disturbing, potentially even traumatic.
Due to the emotional nature of observing drug use, a drug user has a potent influence over the observer. One could even say a great power. This is a power I observed my mother exploit with her use of drugs. She seemed to consume alcohol and heroin as a way to affect her own mother.
My mother and I, back when she was alive and I was in high school.
My mother had a toxic relationship with her mother. It seemed she felt she wasn’t raised well. When I was in 5th grade, we lived in a house that was given to us by my great-grandmother, who eventually developed Alzheimer’s. The house was still in her name and when she passed, the will was changed so that the house went to her daughter instead of my mother. So my mother’s mother used the power she had and changed the house from ‘paid off’ to a rental, while we were living there, forcing us to make payments. This enraged my mother and we moved out and she began to rely on a physically abusive man to pay off the rent of the new place. Eventually, she used drugs to cope with the situation, beginning with alcohol and evolving to heroin and benzo use.
This wasn’t the only reason she used the drugs or even subjected herself to the abusive relationship, or so I think. There is a sense that she created a scenario by using drugs and engaging in the abusive dynamics. The narrative from her perspective was “look at what you have done to me mother. You pushed me to an extreme and now I am using drugs and trapped in an abusive situation because you took our house away from us”.
In a way, using heroin allowed my mother to hurt the emotions of her mother. It became a strategy of punishment. She was expressing the consequences of her mother’s actions through her choices to spiral out of control. This kind of power makes drugs incredible valuable in the current political climate surrounding drug use. Using drugs hurts other people emotionally. So there may be a motivation to use drugs knowing that one can hurt other people by exploiting the cultural connotations associated with drug use.
Another use of drugs is that taking them makes other people worry about you. They create a situation in which you are viewed as undergoing self-harm. If it felt like others do not care enough, doing something that warrants extreme care in others might motivate drug use. In my mother’s case, I think she may have used drugs to create scenarios in which her mother is forced to prioritize her over other issues. Using drugs can make a person become a rather high priority, particularly among family members or close friends, allowing people to instantly acquire people’s attention. If someone believes they deserve that attention or even an apology like in my mother’s case, then using drugs becomes an easy way to reach that goal.
As you can see, there are possible ulterior motives for drug use that I would imagine are frequently involved in the use of drugs. I’ve described other motives before, like where someone might want to engage in unethical behaviors and use drug intoxication and disinhibition as an excuse to carry out such behaviors.
It’s important to note that I don’t believe all of these narratives are ubiquitous. In reality, there may be hundreds of narratives in which drug use satisfies ulterior motives. Each case is likely somewhat unique, only superficially appearing similar to what I’ve described throughout this post. Each person’s reality is likely highly nuanced, so consider that.
. . .
If you found this enjoyable, consider joining the Patreon! I’ve been posting detailed experience reports with my adventures using prescription ketamine. Also, someone sent me an EEG device to collect data on ketamine-induced brainwave changes which I’ve started posting there too. I also post secret mini podcasts. You can find the publicly available podcasts here by the way!
Special thanks to the 12 patrons: Erik Bjäreholt, Nick S, Elin Ahlstrand, Morgan Hough, Buttercup, Idan Solon, Richard Kemp, Sarah Gehrke, Melissa Bradley, Niklas Kokkola, Riley Fitzpatrick, and Charles Wright! Abhi is also the artist who created the cover image for Most Relevant. Please support him on instagram, he is an amazing artist! I’d also like to thank Alexey Guzey, Annie Vu, Chris Byrd, and Kettner Griswold for your kindness and for making these projects and the podcast possible through your donations.
If you liked this, follow me on