It has been said that our self-consciousness is a side effect of our ability to detect and analyse other consciousness.
It could be a simple side effect with no means; an effect which simply follows from the primary goal. In other words, you can’t have one without the other.
And/or it could be a desirable side effect of our social processing, that has its own purpose. The purpose could be the processing of data into the internal self during altered states of consciousness such as dreaming. To give a more holistic sense of knowing or to model out complex scenarios.
If this is true, I expect we would dream more when we are younger and more inexperienced in analysisng others. More data shift. We might also dream more when under periods of group emotional stress or change (aka during a zombie apocalypse or adolescence)).
My kids dream a lot more than me. Adding weight to the idea that this is because they have new data coming at them everyday and lots to try to understand.
As they grow they will go through the relatively stressful adolescence period where detecting others consciousness becomes disproportionately important in social heirarchying. At those times, if dreams aren’t enough release it would be tempting to turn to drugs for some drug-induced altered state analysis time. Perhaps it’s no coincidence that adolescence is when drug use can peak.
Some people carry on with addictive drugs for many years. It could be that rehab centres which collect people into groups for recovery should remodel their approach. If the altered state is to give analysis time for other consciousnesses, it might be better to actually have much smaller groups of people that don’t provide so much other conscious input. To relieve the source of the need to drug in the first instance.