Every individual has needs, and we recognize that there are many differences among individuals. There are, however, many commonalities that make us very much alike. One of these sets of commonalities is probably a basic set of needs that we all have.

How we accomplish or satisfy these needs varies from individual to individual ??" which is one of the things that makes us individuals. What are these needs, and how do they relate to drugs?

Abraham Maslow (1908??"1970), an American psychologist, developed what has become known as a hierarchy of human needs. This hierarchy begins at a low level with very basic human needs that all of us must satisfy in order to exist; it peaks with a need that only some of us ever accomplish. This hierarchy is generally characterized in the following five categories.

I. Physiological needs such as food, drink, and oxygen.
2. Safety needs for protection and security, including such things as shelter, clothing, and confidence that one??Ts physiological needs will continue to be met.
3. Belongingness and love needs, which require relationships with others, identification with groups, and affection.
4. Esteem needs, which include the need for self-respect, status, and prestige.
5. Self-actualization, which is the need to ??~??~be all that you can be??? -- to be able to develop oneself to one??Ts full capacity.

These needs are hierarchically arranged; that is, an individual must satisfy the needs at the lower levels before accomplishing or satisfying higher-level needs. Individual behavior is motivated by unmet needs at each level. Unfulfilled needs can lead to deficiencies in the individual and, at higher levels, result in what Maslow called metapathologies such as alienation, apathy, and cynicism.

Maslow??Ts hierarchy of needs is only one of several major theories that seek to explain motivation for behavior and growth of an individual. There are others, but we choose at this point to focus on the Maslow paradigm and its relationship to another hypothesis posited by Andrew Weil in his book The Natural Mind (1972) con-cerning why people take drugs.

Imagine yourself when you were a youngster 4 to 10 years old. Every youngster is different and therefore likely to engage in a variety of activities to satisfy curiosity, to remain active, or to socialize with others. Think about some of the activities you engaged in for those purposes. Now take this one step further and try to think about some specific activities you engaged in that you think all your friends also engaged in. Now take a giant step forward and try to picture which activities you may have engaged in that perhaps every youngster who ever lived probably did also.

If you are stymied, try some examples. Have you ever spun yourself around until you became dizzy? Of course you have. Well, probably everyone else has also at one time or another. Have you ever threatened to hold your breath for a very long time? Probably! Have you ever fantasized about being somewhere else, or doing something that you will probably never do? It is very likely that you have done some fantasizing.

These are all examples of activities that youngsters often engage in and very probably have been done by almost all youngsters who ever lived. Why do we do these things? What do they accomplish?

Think carefully about what these activities are. They are all means to alter consciousness. They take us out of our "ordinary??? consciousness to what Weil terms "nonordinary??? consciousness which is presumably pleasurable.

We continue to engage in these activities because we ??~??~enjoy??? the results. Now imagine that this motivation or drive to experience this nonordinary consciousness was a basic need, as in Maslow??Ts hierarchy. It seems possible, then, that children engage in certain specific activities to satisfy one of the basic needs for growth and maturation??"the need to alter consciousness or to experience nonordinary consciousness.

As we grow older, spinning around until we become dizzy is less socially acceptable and holding one??Ts breath for long periods of time seems to be deviant; therefore we look for more acceptable ways to satisfy the unmet need to alter consciousness.

Some people succeed in experiencing nonordinary consciousness by engaging in risk-taking behavior, some of which seems socially acceptable (mountain climbing, skydiving, etc.) and others less socially acceptable (e.g. high-speed driving or playing any one of a wide variety of ??ochicken games???). Some people succeed by stretching their bodies to the limits of pain, endurance, or skill (such as training for and taking part in any one of many sports, some of which involve competition against others, some of which involve competition against oneself) or by studying ways to extend our senses through natural means (such as with meditation, yoga, or the martial arts). Some people succeed in altering consciousness by using drugs recreationally.

Let us summarize briefly at this point. There are many ways that human growth and development have been studied and explained. One of the most widely accepted paradigms used to explain motivation for certain behaviors and drives is that of Maslow (1976), who proposed that all individuals have sets of needs that must be met. These needs are arranged in a hierarchical structure, so that before higher-level needs can be addressed, the more basic needs must be satisfied.

Before we can satisfy our needs for self-esteem, we must first make sure that our basic physiological needs for food and water, our safety needs, and our belongingness and love needs are satisfied.

Without placing it anywhere in Maslow??Ts hierarchy of needs, Weil (1972) proposes that an additional need not identified by Maslow may be the need to experience nonordinary reality??"to alter consciousness.

This need, like many other human needs, is satisfied in different ways because of individual differences among those seeking to satisfy this need. Some people satisfy this need by using drugs recreationally. Taking a drug is a relatively easy, rapid, and effective way to alter consciousness. It is therefore a widely accepted approach among many individuals.

We must, however, carefully make an important point here. Drug taking is not a basic need. It is only one means by which some people satisfy what has been proposed as the basic need to alter consciousness.

Although Weil??Ts view may be controversial, it does seem to explain reasonably why some people use drugs recreationally. We believe that recreation is a legitimate reason to use any of a wide variety of psychoactive drugs. Making a responsible decision to use a drug recreationally, however, is only the beginning point of our major responsibility, that is, to use the drug responsibly and in a manner warranted in the particular situation.