Life, Drugs, and the Making of Meaning

  • Joseph De Leo
  • Mitch Earleywine


Drug use can seem an odd and inexplicable act but might be part of a larger quest to make meaning in life. This chapter places this quest within the context of recent psychological theorizing related to the Meaning Maintenance Model (Proulx and Heine, Psychol Inq, 17:309–318, 2006). This model suggests that threats to one’s sense of meaning motivate compensatory efforts to create an environment that appears meaningful—especially by changing the world, one’s perceptions of it, or one’s beliefs. We suggest that societal teachings about drugs are often at odds with individual experiences, essentially threatening meaning. This threat then encourages further inquiry about drugs, potentially increasing use or motivating questions about societal teachings. A review of recent empirical support for the Meaning Maintenance Model leads to novel predictions about the potential effects of misinformation about drug use motives and behavior. This information might inadvertently motivate drug experiences, altering expectancies and contributing to use.


Sexual Arousal Psychoactive Drug Standard Conditioning Medical Cannabis Meaning Framework 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


  1. Correia C (2005) Behavioral theories of choice. In: Earleywine M (ed) Mind-altering drugs: the science of subjective experience. Oxford University Press, New York, pp 3–24CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Cox WM, Blount JP, Klinger E (1990) Incentive motivation, affective change, and alcohol use: a model. In: Cox WM (ed) People drink: parameters of alcohol as a reinforcer. Gardner Press, New York, pp 291–314Google Scholar
  3. Darkes J, Goldman MS (1993) Expectancy challenge and drinking reduction: experimental evidence for a mediational process. J Consult Clin Psychol 61:344–353PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Earleywine M (2005a) Cannabis: attending to subjective effects to improve drug safety. In: Earleywine M (ed) Mind-altering drugs: the science of subjective experience. Oxford University Press, New York, pp 240–257CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Earleywine M (2005b) Understanding marijuana. Oxford University Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  6. Festinger L (1957) A theory of cognitive dissonance. Stanford University Press, StanfordGoogle Scholar
  7. Heine SJ, Proulx T, Vohs KD (2006) The meaning maintenance model: on the coherence of social motivation [target article]. Pers Soc Psychol Rev 10(2):88–110PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Jones J (Director) (1999) The Emporer of Hemp [Film]. Double J Films, Los AngelesGoogle Scholar
  9. Klinger E (1977) Meaning and void: inner experience and the incentives in people’s lives. University of Minnesota Press, MinneapolisGoogle Scholar
  10. Leary T, Metzner R, Alpert R (1964) The psychedelic experience—a manual based on the Tibetan book of the dead. University Press Books, New Hyde ParkGoogle Scholar
  11. Leventhal AM, Schmitz JM (2006) The role of drug use outcome expectancies in substance abuse risk: an interactional-transformational model. Addict Behav 31(11):2038–2062PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Levy B, Earleywine M (2004) Discriminating reinforcement expectancies for studying from future time perspective in the prediction of drinking problems. Addict Behav 29:181–190PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Proulx T, Heine SJ (2006) Death and black diamonds: meaning, mortality, and the meaning maintenance model [Target Article]. Psychol Inq 17:309–318CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Proulx T, Heine SJ, Vohs KD (2010) When is the unfamiliar the uncanny? Meaning affirmation after exposure to absurdist literature, humor, and art. Pers Soc Psychol Bull 36(6):817–829PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Rosenfeld I (2010) My medicine. Open Archive Press, Silver SpringGoogle Scholar
  16. Schafer J, Brown SA (1991) Marijuana and cocaine expectancies and drug use patterns. J Consult Clin Psychol 59:558–565PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Stacy AW, Newcomb MD, Bentler PM (1993) Cognitive motivations and sensation seeking as long-term predictors of drinking problems. J Soc Clin Psychol 12:1–24CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Strassman R (2001) DMT: the spirit molecule. Park Street Press, RochesterGoogle Scholar
  19. Strassman RJ (2005) Hallucinogens. In: Earleywine M (ed) Subjective effects of mind-altering drugs. Oxford University Press, New York, pp 49–85CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Vangsness L, Bry BH, LaBouvie EW (2005) Impulsivity, negative expectancies, and marijuana use: a test of the acquired preparedness model. Addict Behav 30:1071–1076PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity at Albany, State University of New YorkAlbanyNY

Personalised recommendations