The existence of peer pressure has never been in question, but true studies and research behind it haven’t always been as thorough as it has in recent years. The cornerstone of countless anti-drug and alcohol campaigns in schools, peer pressure is a common driver in first-time substance use that often leads to addiction early on in life.
Peer pressure’s ability to sway perception and decision making can be beneficial in some scenarios such as encouraging friends to be healthier or take chances on positive opportunities that come their way.
Unfortunately, that same power can be used to convince others to take part in risky behaviors including substance abuse and accompanying dangerous activities such as driving while impaired.
The Ways We Learn From Others
Albert Bandura was a Canadian-American psychologist who posed the Social Learning Theory that goes into the process of how our thoughts are shaped based on what we take away from our environment. If an individual is surrounded by drug or alcohol users, they’re more likely to join in. This is especially true when it’s a group of friends or peers they hold in high regard.
Modelling this behavior is one of the most common forms of peer pressure as it’s a reaction from an individual rather than an attempt from the group for them to join in the consumption. If the individual doesn’t join on their own then they run the risk of feeling judgement from their peers for abstaining.
Lastly, certain thoughts or feelings will begin to manifest pertaining to the use of specific substances. Some may feel like they’re more enjoyable to be around when drinking, a positive reinforcement, or they could focus on how sore and sick they feel the next day, a negative reinforcement.
Depending on what type of connection is made after using a substance, individuals may never use it again or start using regularly.
There Are Varying Degrees of Peer
The type of relationship one has with their peers has a direct relation to how much weight their opinions and actions have on the individual. Close friends will have much more power when it comes to persuading us to try or do something, even if it’s not what we wish to do.
Parties full of strangers won’t be as high-pressure of a situation when it comes to peer pressure. In these cases, the individual’s own fears of social repercussions for not partaking may be the driving force behind the decision to drink or use drugs.
While alcohol is more common and socially acceptable compared to drugs, peer pressure works in the same manner. The dangers of peer pressure to use illicit drugs come with the added concern over illegal activities that often accompany drug use.
What This Means for Long-Term Addiction
When peer pressure is discussed, it’s typically centered around the relationships and environments that generate the pressure for the individual. Only recently have the early studies of this cognitive behavior had time to see the impacts later on in life.
Whether pressure is applied to use drugs or consume alcohol, the substance use reinforced through peer pressure can create lasting habits and behaviors that need outside intervention and treatment to overcome. The younger an individual is when they first try a substance, the more likely their brain is to latch onto it. Underage drinking and drug use in youths can be curbed with the proper education on the social pressures and impacts of substance abuse.
Overcoming Peer Pressure
Understanding that you are the only person in charge of your actions is the first step in keeping peer pressure from becoming overwhelming. Self-confidence is one of the strongest assets when it comes to standing up to pressure. Firmly and politely decline offers you aren’t comfortable accepting without concern of their reactions as true friends will respect your decision.
If it’s a situation where the initial act of declining isn’t enough, change the topic of discussion or suggest something else to do. Give them reasons you can’t partake such as work the next day or needing to make sure you get home safely later that night.
Get Help at Any Stage of Substance Abuse or Addiction
Peer pressure has a concerning connection to early substance use, but it isn’t the only factor in what creates the roots addiction. Breaking free from addiction isn’t an easy task to undergo alone and can even be dangerous due in cases of heavy and severe substance abuse.
Our team at America’s Rehab Campuses are equipped to handle all forms of substance abuse and addiction whether it’s in the early stages and red flags are just starting to pop up or it’s on the tail end of years struggling against dependencies and abuse. If you or a loved one are in a similar situation, get a free confidential consultation today.