Young people use drugs for all sorts of different reasons. As carers, it helps to understand that there is almost always some function and meaning for a young person.

Although it might seem obvious to an adult that the use of drugs or alcohol is causing problems, the reasons behind the use are normally valid and understandable ones and young people who use drugs are normally trying to meet the same needs as most other young people.


  • To stop being bored
  • To help unwind and relax
  • To help sleep
  • To get motivated
  • To help with painful feelings-grief, anxiety, anger
  • To slow down racing thoughts
  • To fit in
  • To just feel good
  • To feel comfortable in social situations
  • To have interesting ideas and be creative
  • To relive pain
  • So problems aren’t as much of a bother
  • To help with side effects from medication
the reasons behind the use are normally valid and understandable ones and normally the same needs as most young people have.

It is not always obvious which of these (or any other) reasons are behind why someone you care about uses drugs or alcohol. You don’t have to condone or “be alright” with drug or alcohol use but acknowledging that there are reasons can help promote a supportive and empathetic approach to the person you care about.

In fact, for a young person to make changes to their use, they will need to learn other ways that fulfil the needs currently met by drugs or alcohol.

Check out our articles on how you can help a young person.