Peer Pressure and Drug Use

We’ve discussed how cultures, and their ethnic or cultural norms, can affect addiction regarding why people start misusing substances and why they continue to do so even when a problem is present. Television programming often portrays underage drinking and smoking as the status quo. Teenagers and young adults will often experiment to gain approval from their peers. As we grow and mature, we may constantly question why and how peer pressure could hold that much power over us. 

Peer pressure manifests in several negative ways. In this new age of social media, this pressure has intensified. People often experience a fear of missing out, or FOMO, and decide to avoid that feeling that they must begin partaking in drug use. There are many reasons why this pressure is harmful. For one, it’s not necessarily good for anyone to have that kind of power of you. Secondly, the human brain isn’t fully developed until our mid-20s, so drug use at an early age can have detrimental effects on its development. Third, it can sometimes be difficult for us to think logically about decision-making at our influential stages of adolescence. Chances are first-time, teenage drug users aren’t reasoning about avoiding drug use due to family history or environmental factors. Making uneducated decisions to misuse drugs can start a long and dangerous road of suffering from addiction.

Peer Pressure and the Brain

The critical difference between teenagers and adults is that we begin to make less risky decisions as we get older. Some research has shown that the development of our brains influences the likelihood of risk-taking. It’s been observed that unsafe decisions and behavior often increase as we enter adolescence from childhood and decrease as we enter adulthood. According to Developmental Review, risky decision making and behavior increase as we transition from childhood into adolescence, due to the socio-emotional changes we begin to experience during puberty, “leading to increased reward-seeking, especially in the presence of peers,” which is “fueled mainly by a dramatic remodeling of the brain’s dopaminergic system.” As we mature and get older, so does our brain. Changes in our brain’s cognitive control improve our ability for self-control and discipline, allowing us to make more rational decisions and responsible decisions.

Perhaps as you’ve grown up, you’ve begun to care less and less what your friends, peers, or other social comrades think of you, which can be very freeing. You may still hope for their acceptance, but you will frequently begin to feel more comfortable making the smarter though sometimes more difficult decisions. Unfortunately, by then, it’s sometimes too late. Hazardous choices in your youth can have long-term effects on the rest of your life.

Pressure to Recover

Deciding to enter into treatment and recovery is not to be taken lightly. It’s a significant step, one that you need to consciously decide for yourself. So what do we mean by the pressure to recover? When family, friends, and loved ones are aware of your addiction, you may often feel them breathing down your neck to seek treatment. That’s because they care about you, which is a great thing, but the decision to recover needs to be yours. In some cases, that constant pressure from loved ones can suffocate and produce the opposite effect; you may begin to push those people away and fall even further into the spiral of addiction.

Some may argue that there is positive peer pressure. They think that this pressure can lead individuals to make decisions that are best for them. During the decision-making period, you may not know what’s best for yourself. However, being forced into treatment doesn’t typically work well either; you have to want it yourself. When you do choose it, though, the results can be astronomical.

Freedom from Peer Pressure

Some may be unfortunate and continue experiencing peer pressure even as they grow up. However, it can’t hurt to learn how to break free from peer pressure on your own. For starters, you can change who you surround yourself with. By removing the negative influences from your life, you remove the negative peer pressure. You may also consider practicing mindfulness and incorporating healthy habits into your daily life, filling up the time you would maybe otherwise experience it.

We all experience peer pressure, whether to fit in or impress our friends, which can lead to initial drug misuse and addiction. If you are experiencing pressure to misuse substances, you may consider seeking help regardless of your age. Decide today that life is worth more than taking a chance at substance use and eventual addiction.

Similar to how our cultural backgrounds can affect our susceptibility to alcohol or drug use, the same applies to peer pressure. Most people experience peer pressure at some point in their lives and at nearly any age. While we typically become less vulnerable to peer pressure as we mature due to our emotional evolution and brain development, risky decisions such as drug use at an early age can be detrimental to you and your long-term physical and mental health. If you or someone you love is experiencing peer pressure to use drugs, alcohol, or any other addictive substance, it is best to seek help as soon as possible. Even if you are using substances for the first time or feel pressured to continue substance use, finding the right resources and treatment plan can make all the difference. Call the Lakehouse Recovery Center at (877) 762-3707 to start your life-changing path to recovery.