Many current theories about drug addiction suggest that addicts are motivated to take drugs by a desire to experience the pleasure they get by taking them and a fear of experiencing the unpleasant withdrawal symptoms of stopping taking them. Several studies have found that the use of alcohol and other addictive drugs is increased when access to other pleasures is reduced and, conversely, when the availability of other pleasures is increased drug use declines. Other theories look at why people start taking drugs in the first place. One theory is that people's views about the rewards of various activities and the costs associated with them come from their families in their childhood and their peers during their adolescence when people are vulnerable to falling in with a bad lot. According to this theory drug addicts should have a very different view of the rewards and costs of different activities than other people. Researchers from the South Essex Parnership NHS Trust and Cambridge University examined this theory by comparing 104 heroin addicts with 104 members of the general public. Both groups were asked to rate 21 pleasurable activities and 22 damaging and disruptive conditions in order of importance. The drug addicts reported that they got more pleasure from children, friends, sex and a good meal than heroin and they rated heroin addiction as the second most damaging and disruptive condition after lung cancer. The rankings of both groups were highly comparable and the researchers concluded that the values and priorities of the heroin addicts were very similar to those of the general population.
Luty, J. and Lawrence, A. - Preferred activities of opiate dependent people Journal of Substance Use February 2009, 14(1), 61-69