Teenagers and young adults face a variety of challenges as they grow up. Parents often warn of the dangers of peer pressure, telling you that you should choose your friends wisely, but is peer pressure really a danger? Can peer pressure lead you down a path toward substance abuse?
Types of Peer Pressure
There are two different kinds of peer pressure: active and passive. Active peer pressure is often the most common and easiest type to identify. Typically, active peer pressure involves a member of your peer group directly offering you alcohol or drugs and attempting to sway you into participating in their use. If you attempt to say no, you may be ridiculed or told that you are ruining the fun.
Passive peer pressure can be more insidious. This type of peer pressure revolves around your perceptions of those around you and the expectations they may have for you. Passive peer pressure often manifests as an internal belief that your friends are indulging in drinking or drug use, and in order to fit in, you must also partake (1).
How Does Peer Pressure Impact You?
Peer pressure doesn’t affect everyone the same way, and there are many factors that can lead to drug abuse. Poor relationships with family members can make you vulnerable to both active and passive peer pressure (2). Because the family is often the most fundamental support structure for a teenager or young adult, poor family relationships leave a gap that some might turn to substance abuse to fill.
Students who are entering college often encounter significant peer pressure to indulge in drug use due to campus parties and a social expectation that you need to join in to have fun. As freshmen, it might seem like the only way to make new friends is to participate in the substance use around you.
How Do You Avoid or Overcome Peer Pressure?
Peer pressure can be incredibly difficult to endure and overcome. As a young adult, you may believe that all your friends are engaging in drug use, and to be accepted, you have to use them as well. However, there are ways that you can avoid or combat peer pressure.
Friendship is important, but avoiding people who use drugs is the best way to stay away from peer pressure. You can practice saying no, and you can also talk with your friends about helping each other say no to peer pressure. It can be difficult to tell someone no when they mock you for not participating in their drug use, but having other friends who can support you when you say no can make it easier.
Communicating with an adult about drug use is also important. This can often be difficult for a teenager or young adult, because it doesn’t seem like your parents or teachers understand, but they have most likely also experienced peer pressure in their lives as well. Talking to them can help you understand how to say no, and they can help you see that drug use is not the social norm or expectation.
Everyone, at some point in their lives, faces peer pressure. Drug abuse can have lasting physical, mental and emotional effects on your life, but learning to avoid peers who indulge in drug use and developing the ability to say no can help you stay away from substance abuse.