How Drugs Can (Generally) Impact Happiness

sitting on the side of the road with a beer

Are Drugs Good Or Bad?

Outside of the war on drugs, I’m sure many of you hold strong opinions on how they ought to be used. Drugs are the quickest way to ruin your life! No one should ever do them. Or Who cares, do whatever you want. Smoking a blunt never killed anyone. You might think I’m inclined to agree with one side, however, I think drugs, in their various forms, are more nuanced than we tend to give them credit for. Let’s talk for a moment about how drugs impact your happiness.

Before we get too far into this discussion, I want to make a few points. I do not advocate for anyone using mind-altering drugs, I believe there are other, more effective methods for creating happiness. If you’re struggling to find happiness, experimenting with substances is an incredibly inefficient and potentially dangerous route. Please look at other resources if you’re struggling.

What I mean by drugs.

In addition, I’m using the word ‘drugs’ quite broadly. For the sake of coherency, please understand I’m referring to relatively safe drugs  (we can debate which specific drugs fall under that category another day). Depending on the drug, impacts vary wildly. I understand that. Still, there’s value in a generic conversation of the subject. 

It seems conversations around drugs often devolve into a binary comparing consistent use against absolute abstinence.  It’s not a binary decision. Casual use is real, as is the danger that casual use devolves into abuse. Many individuals take a hard line that drug use is never acceptable and some sort of character weakness. That’s not necessarily true, it matters how substances are consumed.

You can use them to improve your life.

Here’s an example; I occasionally have a few drinks while writing, enough for a serious buzz. Not because I need it to be productive and creative, but it occasionally sounds nice, loosens my gears a bit, and jumpstarts my flow state. Am I suddenly an unhealthy, weak-willed, alcoholic headed for ruin? Nope. It’s just a nice boost to a casual activity.

I don’t make a habit of drinking every time I write though. Frequency is important. Quantity is important. If I were to find myself drinking heavily every time I wrote, it might be cause for concern. At that point, whether I’ve done it consciously or not, I’m pairing the two activities together in a way that’s hazardous to my health. I’ve paired them in a way that will likely result in less happiness for myself, not more.

For many of you, alcohol seems incredibly tame. For others, it’s more damaging than many other drugs, which is why I think a generic conversation is sufficient. Any substance with mind-altering properties has the potential for abuse and the potential for use without concern. It’s all relative based on your use-case, frequency, and results.

Or, they can ruin your life.

Many individuals consume massive doses of caffeine every day. Some become jittery, anxious, and upset without it. Yet, people rarely bat an eye or have harsh judgments of character for them. Why? Because it’s less potent? Addicts are still dependent on the substance and negatively impacted when they quit. How is this ‘worse’ than using low doses of hallucinogens on occasion in a way that increases happiness? The specific drug is irrelevant; legal drugs can be detrimental, just as highly illicit ones can be.

I understand many of the individuals adamantly opposed individuals have seen firsthand effects of drug abuse. While there can be benefits to low-usage for some, many others’ can and have had their lives completely ruined by these substances. They have ruined families and caused harm to individuals. Again, I’m not advocating for drug use, as I believe there are far better tools for happiness. Any mind-altering substance can be dangerous. I worry, however, a stigma against drug use for any reason is potentially more damaging than the impacts of the minor drug use, especially as it relates to happiness.

Pay Attention to How Drugs Impact You

We’ll always have examples like the abusive alcoholic parent, or the tipsy life of the party. There will be lazy, couch-locked stoners and laid-back, talented musicians. LSD users who become Steve Jobs and those who lose touch with reality. The individual, frequency of use, and individual effects are absolutely crucial to outcomes in drug use. As you might guess, we must be very careful when using these substances.

There are times and places for certain sub-groups of people to use certain drugs. If it’s not ruining your life and actually making you more productive or happier on occasion how can anyone judge you for that? How can I say it’s something you should avoid? There’s nothing inherently wrong with using mind-altering substances, but there is a potential downside. The problems arise when they ultimately make you unhappy and limit your potential. 

From time to time, it’s useful to review what you’re using, why, and how it’s impacting your life. Look at the big picture, not the daily. If you’re reliant on these substances in any way, it’s a problem. If they alone prop up your happiness, you’re on the wrong path. Otherwise, it’s up to you as an individual to decide where your boundaries are and what works for you.


  1. Are there any mind-altering substances you use on a regular basis? Is it helping or hindering your life and health?


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