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Why Do We Get High?

By John Clarke

Looking back at my previous post, Democracy In Action, I think it’s pretty clear the upcoming legal highs ban in the UK is NOT a “Harm Reduction” move.  Banning a class of substances with medical value because of “potential harm”, despite never having killed anyone seems to me to be an attempt to control particular states of conciousness. Inspired by the fuckwits that run this country, I decided to investigate just why people get high in the first place.

Elephants drink to forget...

Elephants drink to forget...

The first interesting and often overlooked point is that animals like to get high too. Elephants not only like to get pissed every now and then by eating fermenting fruit; they also drink themselves stupid if their mate dies, clearly drowning their sorrows. Vervet monkeys love stealing people’s drinks and getting drunk just for the fun of it. Lemurs have evolved to get high off the millipede juice they spray over themselves to repel bugs. Even the wallabies are at it! In fact, animals getting high is such a prevalent phenomenon that there’s an entire episode of Weird Nature dedicated to it – Peculiar Potions. All this evidence points to getting high as another kind of instinct, alongside eating, sleeping and mating. That doesn’t mean we all want to get high 100% of the time and will kill each other for the privilege, it just means that right across the animal kingdom, this penchant for getting high (or a tendency to self-medicate) obviously had its advantages. Anxiety, restlessness, depression, pain, lack of appetite – all of these can be managed to some extent by one drug or another, and if trying to manage those things means you live longer and are more likely to pass on your genes, it’s no wonder this instinct is so ingrained. You can read more about the “Intoxication Instinct” here.

I’ve done a little study of my own to find out why people get high. With tens of thousands of pounds in funding from John Hopkins and the University of Nottingham, I bought massive bag of drugs and consumed them over a five year period to really get to the bottom of that issue. When the last of the drugs had gone, I spent the afternoon on various drugs-related forums finding out why people got high and totalled up the results. Here they are:

Why Do We Get High?

All the categories do kind of blur into each other a bit, so here are the loose definitions I used for each:


This category included any responses that indicated a purely recreational, almost innocent reason for drug use., such as dancing or having a laugh.


This category included not only those that used drugs for strict meditation, but also those that used drugs to “expand their conciousness” or to perhaps shift their perspective on things.

Self Medication

The most obvious reason to take drugs is for pain management, but other responders used drugs for anxiety issues, depression and a whole range of other conditions.


Quite simply those people who take drugs because being sober all the time is boring.

Masking Negative Feelings

This would include our bereaved elephant and anyone else who uses drugs to stop themselves dwelling on the negative.


This is related to the self medication category in that these people take drugs to help their confidence in social situations, those who enjoy a quick drink down the pub and everything in between.


This category is probably the hardest to define, representing those looking for something different. While you could argue that these responses could be put in the other categories, this category was actually for those responses that couldn’t be categorised. It includes people who just want a break from normality for no reason in particular.


Believe it or not, some people are more productive on drugs. Take that, government!


So there we have it! An interesting looking graph produced from some pretty dodgy qualitative statistics obtained from a small internet-savvy sample, not representative of the entire population. Still, having fun, introspection, deep though, meditation and self medication are certainly the most popular reasons to take drugs. It’s no wonder organised religion wants to keep this kind of thing under wraps.

Why is it that you get high? Leave an answer in the comments and perhaps we can extend this “study” a little bit..

6 Responses to Why Do We Get High?

  1. YangombiUmpakati says:

    you rock!

    i feel somewhat same way.. but this inspiring article put another piece of concrete particular idea to my whole view making it more complete and clear.. you get me right? anyway thx


  2. PoisonedV says:

    Haha, I get high for all these reasons. Most notably Fun, Boredom, and productivity.

  3. Dragon says:

    I also have consumed a huge bag of drugs funded by myself.

    This article is well done and speaks directly to the ignorance of government. Or is it ignorance?

    I believe that the suppression of alternative drugs (medicine / entheogens) is deliberate because it cuts into the profits they make from the synthetic barrage of narcotics that are deemed legal when a “doctor” writes shit on a piece of paper.

    I have eliminated several prescription drugs that I was using by switching to the alternative entheogens. Lower blood pressure to normal, weight loss, reduced alcohol intake, stopped smoking fag tobacco, etc.

    Oh ya I almost forgot. Getting high is fun too.

    WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO !!!!! My walls are melting !!!!

    Ya and I have unreal energy. Forgot about that part. Productivity is better than ever due to a clear mind due to a shift of my view of the whole creation specifically.

    This blog always deserves a 5 on the rating scale.


  4. adam says:

    what about addiction? It blends into the others as well but deserves to be its own reason more than some of the others.

    also i love how today’s front page ends, with a fuck you to George Lamb…

  5. Synchronium says:

    Adam, you’re right. I didn’t include addiction though because that was never a reason to start using drugs. Also, I imagine those looking for a bit of fun or intellectual escapism are probably more likely to use online forums to talk about it. If I included addiction, the results would have been unusually low.

    It also comes down to where I collected the data from. While some forums encourage discussion of illegal addictive drugs, some didn’t, so all the other categories still applied.

  6. Louis says:

    I guess I get high for all of the reasons above, but I seem to keep to certain drugs for the different categories. For example, I wouldn’t get stoned to go out for the night, or I’d just get sleepy. In the same way, I wouldn’t drop some MDMA out of boredom – it seems too heavy for such a trivial reason.

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