Things may feel overwhelming if you or someone you care about is struggling with substance abuse. If addictive substances negatively impact your life, it’s natural to wonder how the issue started in the first place. Getting informed about topics like peer pressure and substance abuse can be a great way to set yourself up for success in recovery.
The Relationship Between Peer Pressure and Substance Abuse
The company you keep genuinely does make an enormous difference in what you think and how you behave. This is especially true for young people, who spend most of their social time with relatively uniform groups of other young people. Brain development needs to be completed during the teen and early adult years, and higher reasoning powers have yet to mature fully.
Notably, peer pressure can work for the positive or the negative. For example, teens and young adults who operate within a social group that does not engage in much or any drug and alcohol use are much less likely to take an interest in doing so independently. Conversely, if their peer group does so, young people will likely engage in harmful behaviors like excessive drinking or illegal drug use. For young people, it can seem nearly inconceivable to put their own safety or long-term success before the potent short-term reward of being part of the group.
Recognizing Peer Pressure in a Social Setting
Whether negative or positive, peer pressure can be thought of in terms of three components:
- Social reinforcement – This refers to how an individual is treated by their peer group concerning a particular behavior, such as drinking alcohol. For example, if someone is teased for not drinking, they’ll likely feel pressured to start.
- Modeling – This classic form of learning, which humans share with many animal groups, refers to taking visual cues from one’s peer group. For example, a teen who sees their friends smoking cigarettes may decide they should start as well.
- Cognitions – The actual narrative and thoughts surrounding activities can also be a powerful component of peer pressure. For example, if a young person internalizes the message, “Drinking helps you unwind after a busy school week,” they’ll be much more likely to drink every weekend than a young person who internalizes a message like, “Drinking excessively increases the risk of car accidents and sexual assault.”
Humans are social animals, and we naturally watch one another for cues about how to behave. While empathy and imitation can be tremendous assets, learning to advocate for individual needs is equally important.
Avoiding Negative Peer Pressure and Alcohol or Drug Abuse
Here are a few tips for handling negative peer pressure:
- Practice good eye contact with the person pressuring you and say no politely but firmly.
- Make an excuse if you need to. For example, say you can’t get involved because of another commitment.
- Try to reframe the situation by suggesting a different activity.
- If you feel safe doing so, explain to your friends why you aren’t comfortable participating in an activity and ask that they respect your choice.
- Exit the situation if you are uncomfortable.
- If a pattern of negative pressure is clear, consider distancing yourself from the friend group engaging in it. You deserve friends who listen to you and honor your needs.
Peer pressure is challenging for people of all ages, not just teens. Whether a person is just entering high school, in college, starting a new job, or even entering a retirement community, peers matter. This is why it is essential to know what to do when faced with peer pressure and substance abuse simultaneously.
Learn More About the Link Between Peer Pressure and Substance Abuse at Recovery Ranch PA
Everyone needs help from time to time. An accredited treatment program for drug or alcohol addiction can be a game-changer in the journey toward regaining control of your life. Contact Recovery Ranch PA today at 717.969.9126 or reach out online to start on the path to getting addiction treatment.