Peer Pressure and Drug Use

Parents, kids, and teachers everywhere know the phrase: peer pressure. Prevention and education programs target peer pressure and give kids tools to say no or walk away when their friends offer drugs. Addiction recovery centers offer support for young adults and their families struggling with drug use. But despite these efforts, peer pressure can still play a powerful role in prompting kids to use drugs. When a teen’s friends smoke or use drugs, they are more likely to follow suit.


Part of the problem with adolescent drug use is that teens tend to overestimate how much and how often their peers are engaging in risky behaviors such as drug use. In one study, a group of popular students self-reported no marijuana use in the past month, but their peers estimated that they smoked between one and nine times during the last month, a significant departure from the actual occurrence. Of course, much of this disparity between perception and reality may be due to the posturing that occurs in adolescence: in order to appear cool, teens may exaggerate or fabricate stories about their drug use. But these perceptions, despite being false, can still bear weight in the halls of middle and high schools, pressuring kids to try drugs.


Why does peer pressure exert such a powerful influence on kids? Several different models have been proposed. Some researchers say that peer pressure is a factor of social learning, or observing social norms, expectations, and others’ actions. If a teen observes other teens engaging in or talking about drug use, then they’re more likely to accept drug use as an acceptable social norm. Others point to the fact that, during adolescence, kids’ bonds with their families weaken while their bonds with their peers strengthen. A kid’s social sphere, then, is more influenced by peers than by parents. To maintain or even improve one’s standing in that social sphere, kids will adopt perceived social norms, such as drug use. Overall, peer groups provide a level of social influence and pressure that’s magnified by the amount of time kids spend in school and away from other influences such as parents.


The effects of peer pressure are worrying, especially since kids have a much higher risk of experimenting with drugs and forming an addiction that necessitates treatment in drug rehab. Because the human brain continues growing and developing until around age 25, adolescents and young adults are left without fully formed impulse control, while the systems that promote addiction are already functioning, making them susceptible to becoming addicted. Addiction treatment facilities across the country are filled with people who began their addiction as an impressionable kid.


If you or a loved one is addicted to alcohol or drugs, please email or call our compassionate representatives to learn more about our luxury drug rehab program. During treatment, clients delve into individual and group counseling, discover the root causes of their addiction, and cultivate a supportive sober network. Clients also walk away with practical skills for avoiding relapse and coping with cravings. Please contact us today to begin the journey that will change your life.

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