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Peer Pressure & Addiction

Table of Contents

What is Peer Pressure?

Peer pressure is something that affects just about every person in every age group from all walks of life. It involves the influence that a group of people has on those within the group in a wide range of social situations. This influence can be used to convince others to dress or act a certain way. Peer pressure comes from friends, but it can also come from co-workers or members of the same community.

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While peer pressure can influence positive behaviors, it’s often the underlying cause of engaging in bad habits and destructive activities. It can be overt or subtle. For example, a group might pressure a friend to start smoking cigarettes by teasing them in an overt manner. Subtle peer pressure might include an individual who starts smoking simply because others around them smoke. While friends or relatives might not have encouraged the individual to smoke, an individual’s exposure to other smokers can subconsciously compel them to start smoking.

 

The Link Between Peer Pressure and Addiction

There is a definite link between peer pressure and addiction, leading many social scientists to explore this connection in recent years. The link can be both overt and subtle in the way that it encourages others to use drugs or drink alcohol. When people find themselves in social settings where others in their own social circle are engaged in substance use, they may feel compelled to engage in those same activities. Even though no one may be directly pressuring them to drink or use drugs, an individual will often use controlled substances as a means of fitting in with their friends.

Alternatively, there is overt pressure that does occur. A friend might offer someone a drink with the assumption that they will engage in the activity. Often, those engaged in the use of illegal drugs will feel uncomfortable with a peer who declines to partake in the use of the drug. For that reason, they may add more direct pressure in getting a friend or colleague to try the drug. They may simply be persistent in a teasing manner until the person relents, or they may be more aggressive and threatening as a means of intimidating the individual. Once they do try the drug or alcohol, that can begin a pattern of use that may ultimately lead to an addiction.

 

How Does Peer Pressure Relate Differently to Drugs and Alcohol?

The first way that peer pressure relates to addiction is in compelling others to drink alcohol. Since alcohol is legal and easily available, peer pressure to drink is more socially acceptable among young adults and college students. In particular, binge drinking on the weekends is a common activity on college campuses. While it may seem like a normal part of socialization, it actually serves as a gateway to addiction. As students spend more time in an intoxicated state, their brains become accustomed to the effects of alcohol. That tolerance will force them to drink more just to maintain a “normal” state of being. By this point, addiction treatment is the only way they can relearn how to live a fully sober and clean lifestyle.

Peer pressure also relates to the use of illegal drugs. The cost and difficulty of obtaining narcotics, however, make this a more subversive activity. Peers are less likely to give away drugs than they are to buy a friend a drink. In these circumstances, social groups are more likely to be engaged in other illegal activities to help them support their habit. They might steal, sell drugs or engage in other high-risk behaviors to support their habit.

When there’s a group involved, the group will pressure individuals to engage in those illegal behaviors so that the entire group can benefit. In this situation, peer pressure isn’t just applied to the use of the drug but also to the other illegal activities that lead to the use of the drug.

 

How Can You Resist Peer Pressure?

There are some effective methods for resisting peer pressure successfully. In fact, anyone can use these tactics to avoid engaging in destructive behaviors. When faced with overt peer pressure, it’s important to be firm in expressing your desire to avoid engaging in the behavior. If someone is pressuring you to use drugs or alcohol, making eye contact is the first essential step. Without breaking that eye contact, firmly decline the offer by using definite terms. If you seem hesitant or uncertain, the individual or group will continue to pressure you to use. If they continue to pressure you, the best thing to do is to walk away from the situation.

It’s also important to recognize that you don’t have to maintain friendships with people who make you feel pressured, bullied or uncomfortable. If a group is continually pressuring you to use drugs or alcohol, stop socializing with them. You can find other groups of friends who won’t be so aggressive in trying to get you to use controlled substances. They may even be more open to engaging in healthier activities that do interest you. Taking up a hobby, such as music or sports, can help you find other friends who won’t risk your health and safety with addictive or high-risk behaviors.

 

Is Positive Peer Pressure Effective?

While negative peer pressure may surround you in your daily life, you might not notice when positive peer pressure also affects your daily life. This type of peer pressure is used to encourage you to do good things for yourself and for others. For instance, a group of friends might volunteer for an animal shelter, or organize a food drive to help feed the homeless. In doing so, they might try to get you to join in on the endeavor. While this still counts as peer pressure, it’s used for positive results. Positive peer pressure can help you with fitness goals, having a nutritious diet, and leading a sober lifestyle.

 

Where Can You Find Positive Peer Pressure?

There are examples of positive peer pressure around you in your daily life, but you must look for them. If you’re in high school or college, you can find positive peer pressure by joining a study group. This is a group of people who get together for the purpose of helping everyone improve their grades. They help one another learn the materials and encourage each other to perform better in class. You can also join social activism groups on campus that focus on improving a cause within your community. Sports teams, musical bands and a variety of athletic activities can also serve as sources of positive peer pressure. They can expose you to others who share your same interests.

 

How Does Addiction Treatment Use Peer Pressure?

You can also find positive peer pressure when you enter into an inpatient addiction treatment program. While individual therapy is an important part of this process, individuals are also encouraged to engage in group meetings. These meetings involve getting a group of clients together to discuss their experiences with addiction. This helps others in the group learn more about the challenges and victories involved in recovery. They can also help others by offering support to other members of the group. This is an effective part of recovery because group support meetings serve as the basis for the peer support network you’ll develop. This support can help you maintain your sobriety when you’re faced with negative peer pressure in the outside world.

 

Can Peers Help an Addict Seek Treatment?

Even before you enter into a treatment program, you may experience positive peer pressure without realizing it. As family members and other loved ones realize that you’re struggling with addiction, they may try to encourage you to seek help. Often, addicted individuals see this type of involvement as meddling or as an effort to control them. That is not the case. When you’re in that situation, your loved ones are using positive peer pressure to get you to seek the help. As you begin treatment, you’ll realize that peer pressure can be someone’s effort towards helping you get well.

From the opposite side of this situation, it’s important for you to help a loved one get the treatment they need. While you can’t force them to go into a rehab facility, you can help them see that they need help. You can do this by having multiple conversations with them about their alcohol or drug use. Try to help them see how their addiction is controlling their lives or negatively impacting them. You can also encourage other people in the individual’s life to have similar conversations with them. While this is an overt type of peer pressure, it can ultimately result in positive effects for the individual.

 

Are Recovering Addicts Still Susceptible to Peer Pressure?

Even after you have completed an addiction treatment program, you will encounter negative peer pressure. In fact, your counseling sessions in your addiction treatment program will partially focus on peer pressure as a trigger. You’ll learn how to recognize when this type of negative peer pressure is occurring. You’ll also have an opportunity to practice how to deal with these situations when they do arise. During peer group meetings, you and other group members will act out situations in which someone is pressuring you to drink or use drugs. You’ll respond to these scenarios by practicing the best responses to each situation. This will prepare you for similar situations after you complete your recovery program.

 

Why It’s Important to Actively Look for Positive Peer Pressure

It’s equally important to look for ways to avoid negative peer pressure upon returning to your normal life. While this involves avoiding old friends and places that serve as triggers for drinking and using drugs, you can also take a more proactive approach. Look at this as an opportunity to rebuild a new life for yourself. Seek out activities that will expose you to positive peer pressure in your daily life. While you should still participate in group meetings in your community, you can also seek out other types of social support. Join a church or another spiritually focused group to help you find meaning in your life. Alternatively, you can find a hobby that interests you and join a group for that hobby. These healthy activities will help you improve the quality of your life. It will also introduce you to people who provide a positive influence. This will encourage you to live a sober and healthy lifestyle.

If you or someone you know needs help with addiction recovery, contact us at Granite Recovery Centers.

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