Peer Pressure and Drug Addiction
For some time, statistics have shown that every day, peers pressure teens into using drugs. Almost one hundred thousand teens have reported that they have tried using a prescription drug for the first time because of the influence of those around them. Due to this phenomenon, the issue of peer pressure has become a cause for concern.
It is likely that you or someone you were once friends with as a teenager or young adult has had the experience of being peer pressured into a situation. Teenagers can sometimes be a bit brutal, but deep down a lot of youths give in to peer pressure out of the fear of not being accepted.
Is there a way to stop the pressure from peers? Possibly. First, let’s learn why peer pressure continues to be such an issue and what we can possibly do about it when it comes to drugs and addiction.
Peer Pressure and Factors that Promote its Growth
Peer pressure is the influence of a group of people who spend time together and may be of the same age, equal standing or status. Situations may involve a person adopting certain behaviors or conforming to particular habits which are approved of by their peers. Some of these habits include underaged drinking, experimenting with psychedelics, or the introduction to the use of illicit drugs.
There are various reasons which account for the prevalence of teen peer pressure. Some of the reasons include:
The need to fit in
Most teenagers prefer to conform to the patterns of a social group in order to have a sense of belonging and to avoid social isolation. They also have the desire to fit in due to the fear of discrimination or judgment. When someone in the group suggests they partake in a rebellious or illegal act, in a close group of friends, many of the teens are likely to agree. Because they are in the phase of their lives where the ego is surging and developing, there is often little thought given to the possible outcomes or consequences. Instead, the immediate concern is the rush of the experience; the thrill of fitting in.
To look or appear “cool.”
Studies show that children are more likely to act out a risky behavior such as running a traffic light or speeding if their peers are watching. They are also more prone to make decisions that will be approved by their peers, even if it’s not what they would usually think about doing themselves. The “cool” or more extreme choice overpowers the sound or right choice as a means to fit in with the group. Examples such as drinking copious amounts of alcohol to seem more fun, or taking illicit drugs at a party– which may be the grounds for the start of drug addiction.
Some teens engage in specific activities just for the sake of knowing about it. They may not know what the consequences of their actions may be. Even if they do, they may feel like attempting a particular activity (like underage drinking) is better than not indulging. Some of these influences stem from the music that they listen to as well which promotes drug addiction as well as the abuse of alcohol.
Certainly, trying new things with the right setting and the right group of peers can be a normal part of experiencing through the formative years of life. However, with the wrong setting, careless peers, and a fear-based approach to experimentation, the outcome can serve to be dangerous instead of delightful.
Curiosity is a catalyst to how teens learn, indeed. But there is a reason the term goes, “curiosity kills the cat.” Too much curiosity can become inappropriate, especially in times of risky behavior in the midst of the wrong crowd.
Some teens also decide to indulge in drug taking or drinking as a way to escape their stress or other situations that may seem overbearing. If teens don’t learn proper coping skills, communication, or how to develop a sense of self-actualization, they might turn to what they see others around them doing to feel a sense of peace. In most cases, teens can experience times where they feel lost, misunderstood, alone, insecure, and afraid. Therefore many of them wish to “tune out” at times. Because of the instant-gratifications and drug saturated culture we live in, the ways they tune out can be easily fulfilled through mind-altering substances.
Drug and alcohol users spend most of their time with persons who share the same interest. As the old saying goes: “tell me the five people you spend the most time with and I will tell you who you are.” Spending time with people that are using (even if they are not abusing) drugs often leads to more drug use and in many cases drug addiction. The people you spend the most time with tend to have the most influence on your thoughts, actions, and therefore, habits.
Over the past ten years, it has become an observation that more teens and young adults are saying no to drugs. While this is true, the need to completely eradicate drug use by teens is still a goal of many nations. Some areas of the world which promote and rally for complete abstinence from all drug use find a backfiring of the opposite results: young people clamoring to use and abuse drugs more and more.
On the other hand, other areas of the world who have “legal drug” laws– those like Portugal– observe similar amounts of younger people experimenting, but less record of lifelong drug addiction. Do laws have something to do with it? Perhaps this argument can be justified on both perspectives. Nonetheless, some substances are still most commonly abused, no matter which country you look at.
The top substances that are still commonly used by peer pressure and teens are:
While alcohol is still a beverage, it is even considered a drug. In fact, alcohol is the number one drug typically abused by teenagers and adults. Binge drinking is a persistent danger at an overwhelming amount of house parties and kickbacks. Younger crowds partake in drinking because it is readily available and easily accessible. However, there has been a 40% decline in the number of teens that use alcohol over the past 35 years.
Many teens don’t know their limit when using alcohol. This can cause unwanted dangers such as blacking out, inability to control their liquor, and even alcohol poisoning. Because alcohol is so glamorized among teen groups, blood alcohol content is rarely discussed or taken into consideration. If the main priority of teen parties were to remain safe, alcohol would not be such a center of attention.
This plant is the second highest abused drug by teenagers. There was a steady decline in the use of marijuana; however, in the past ten years, it seems to be growing again. It may be more accepting due to the fact the substance is becoming more available by teenagers. Many younger generations see it as less of a risk. After all, it is becoming legal both medically and recreationally in more and more states across the U.S.
Many young people assume that since Marijuana is a natural, plant-derived substance that it is completely safe and non-addictive. This might be true to some extent. But even though marijuana might not be physically addictive, it can– in many cases– be extremely psychologically addictive.
Additionally, over the years marijuana growers have been cultivating stronger and more potent strains. Different strains are varieties of marijuana plants that can be useful for getting high. In many situations, most strains of cannabis today are up to 120% higher in THC (tetrahydrocannabinol: the compound in the cannabis plant that gets you high) than even twenty years ago. Because of this, many teens who try weed for the first time report to experiencing full psychedelic symptoms including hallucinations, paranoia, and even blacking out. Although this initial trippy experience can turn teens away from continuing use, it can also result in wanting to use the drug as an escape more and more.
Opiates such as Oxycodone, Vicodin, and Heroin have become increasingly popular among teens and young adults. Trends in movies, entertainment, and hip-hop popular hits brag about using opiates. Terms such as sizzurp, lean, oxy, and fluff are common in many lyrics of pop radio, referring to the “escapism” effects of many dangerous narcotics.
Opiates relate to the brain’s pleasure center. Even though most opiates are painkillers for medical patients who actually need relief, the glamour and allure of recreational use have seen growth throughout the past decade especially. These drugs are exceptionally dangerous as they depress the central nervous system. When mixed with alcohol (which is quite common at teen parties, unfortunately), deadly occurrences can happen. The two do not mix well at all. Mixing the two can lead to heart attack in healthy individuals, as well as strokes, seizures, overdose, or death.
Fueled in part as well by hip-hop and other pop cultures, Xanax— often referred to as “Bars”– is a commonly abused drug among teens and young adults. Xanax is a high addiction prescription pill used for the treatment of anxiety disorders. It releases the body from tension, anxiety, and can cause slurred speech. Along with cognitive impairments, it results in heavy intoxication. Dangers of Xanax include memory loss, extreme mood dysfunction, overdose, and seizures.
Although social support is a good thing, negative peer pressure from negative influences in social groups can harness the growth of bad habits. These habits may also result in negative consequences, such as overdose and drug addiction. Considering those outcomes, there are many ways that a teen can combat unwanted peer pressure and prevent drug use. These include:
- Develop a sense of trust in caring adults with whom they can share their feelings.
- Spend valuable time with positive role models whose behavior can exemplify and who will encourage them to make the right decisions.
- Avoid people who support destructive habits.
- Get information about the dangers of drug use.
- Find a hobby that will occupy your time positively.
- Developing high self-esteem by setting goals and achieving them.
- Encouraging self-respect and self-awareness early on, as to confidently see no need in using or abusing drugs or alcohol.
Peer pressure can be used for good as much as it can be for ill. When an individual is recovering from addiction, having social support can encourage them to make positive changes in their lives.
For example, being placed in a group that supports recovery from addiction can help a person to believe that he/she will be able to achieve the goal (self-efficacy). Goals will motivate them to stay committed and complete their treatment. Even choosing to be the positive influence can have powerful effects on relationships.
Help for Addiction and Release from Negative Peer Pressure
If you need help overcoming peer pressure or addiction, don’t hesitate to reach out to our Addiction Helpline. We can answer your questions or even help you find the support you need for recovering from an addiction in your life. We hold professional drug and alcohol interventions for families in need of assistance toward the start of receiving help for addiction.
The first step towards successful recovery is making the decision. Do you want to be dependent on drugs, forgetting your weekends, hanging out with friends who make poor decisions? Or do you want to be self-sufficient, successful, happy with life, and free from the grip of “needing” substances in your regular daily life? The choice is yours.
When you make the decision to come clean and get sober, the next step is to get help and cut ties from toxic influences in your life. This could include friends, peers, and family members who encourage the damaging behavior. Letting go can be difficult, but it can truly be the best thing that ever happened to you.