Peer Pressure and Substance Abuse
Unfortunately, we all will have to deal with peer pressure at some time in our lives. Although the influence our peers have on our lives is usually something that we deal with as children and teens, this sort of pressure is also definitely present for adults.
As adults, our spouses, friends, and co-workers can all be our peers. Likewise, our definition of what makes up a social circle can change, so peer persuasion can be experienced at any age and in any situation. Unfortunately, peer pressure and substance abuse, often go hand-in-hand.
After all, if a person is constantly around people who make risky decisions, engage in dangerous activities, or entertain negative ideas, the individual will likely begin to develop those same habits. This is also true for individuals who are constantly around people who abuse substances.
How Does Peer Pressure Affect Adults?
Everyone wants to feel like they belong. The result of this is that people are influenced by:
- Social media contacts
- Other members in groups they belong to
- Other media (Peer pressure is one of the most powerful tools that advertisers use.)
All of these use different ways to influence. Ads and TV programs tell people how to look, what to drive, and what to put in and on their bodies. Family members may pressure you about relationships and friends. Co-workers set the standards in the office. It is possible to experience peer pressure in every area of your life.
Peer Pressure and Substance Misuse
Humans take pleasure in being part of a community. One of the ways we bond with others is through shared experiences. When we enjoy something, we want others to take part and share the experience.
Sometimes, people who seek companions with whom they can drink or use drugs may not have a problem with addiction and don’t think about the dangers of peer pressure and drug use. On the other hand, some people try to normalize their own problem behavior by encouraging others to join in with them. In either case, drugs and peer pressure can be a dangerous combination.
Unfortunately, individuals who suffer from substance use disorder may also influence their peers to begin drinking or using drugs. The sad truth is that substance use is dangerous at any age; both younger and older people can develop a problem with alcohol or drugs. Addiction doesn’t discriminate.
Are You a Victim of Negative Peer Influence?
Perhaps your coworkers invite you to happy hour every week. Even though you know you are struggling with alcohol use disorder, you continue to go due to the prodding of your peers. Or, maybe a family member has been using illicit drugs like cocaine or heroin for some time now. Perhaps he or she is pressuring you to give it a try.
Our peers have quite a strong influence on us, perhaps stronger than most people realize. Of course, people can have a positive influence on others. Positive peer pressure certainly exists, in which individuals may influence their peers in positive ways. But, far too often, negative peer pressure finds its way into the lives of adults all over the world. Individuals can encourage their struggling friends to consume an alcoholic drink despite the negative effects of that action.
If you find that a particular social group in your life is encouraging you to get involved in risky behavior, such as drug and alcohol misuse, it is important to distance yourself from these individuals. Continuing to spend time with those who engage in drug and alcohol abuse can lead to long-term addiction problems in your own life.
Health Consequences of Substance Use
Whether you succumb to peer coercion to use substances as an adolescent or an adult, there is still a wide range of short- and long-term direct and indirect effects. Since there are many different types of substance addiction, the physical effects of addiction can vary. Regardless of the substances an individual may use, some of the health consequences of substance abuse can be seen across various types of addiction.
Short-term effects of drug or alcohol abuse may include:
- Appetite changes
- Difficulty sleeping
- Changes in heart rate
- Mood swings
- Heart attack
Long-term effects of addiction may include:
It can be difficult to avoid friends or family members who are trying to encourage you to begin using alcohol or drugs. But, being around people who do not support the idea of living a sober life will likely only lead to alcohol or drug use in your own life.
Peer pressure and addiction can also have indirect effects on the people using the drugs and on the people around them. These effects can be related to:
- Decision-making ability
- Risk for trauma, violence, injury, and/or diseases
- Criminal justice involvement
- Relationship problems
- Employment issues
Types of Peer Pressure
Adults of any age may experience peer pressure, and some experience the combination of peer pressure and addiction. In this age group, the consequences of risky behaviors are typically more serious than those related to childhood risky behaviors.
There are many types of peer pressure, including spoken, unspoken, direct, indirect, positive, and negative.
Spoken Peer Pressure
This involves one person or a group asking another person to take part in some activity. In a group setting, the pressure is much stronger because there is power in numbers.
Unspoken Peer Pressure
This type of peer pressure involves a person being exposed to certain behaviors or choices of others and feeling pressure to fit in with them.
Direct Peer Pressure
Direct peer pressure is challenging because it is very specific to behavior-based conformity and can be spoken or unspoken. The pressure can often feel stronger because of the individual’s discomfort in the environment they’re in at that time.
Indirect Peer Pressure
This type of peer influence is less likely to interfere with our internal voice. However, it can give the go-ahead to a behavior or activity we want to try but haven’t yet. It can also influence how we feel about ourselves.
Positive Peer Pressure
Positive peer pressure can be direct, indirect, spoken, or unspoken. This pressure is felt in one-on-one situations or groups that produce positive results and healthier lifestyle choices.
Negative Peer Pressure
This type can also be direct, indirect, spoken, or unspoken. It can challenge people to do things they may not usually do and take part in behaviors as a way to belong.
7 Tips for Dealing with Negative Peer Pressure Before and After Rehab
Coping with negative peer pressure can be a struggle. Although peer pressure during adulthood is not always as direct or intentional as it is during adolescence, it can be just as harmful. It’s good to know and understand what it is, the damage it can do to you, and how to deal with it. But there are many ways to resist it and enjoy your life. Here are some tips to help discourage the pressure and keep the peace.
1. Know yourself.
To escape peer pressure effectively, it’s important to have your goals and values firmly in mind. Then, when you’re faced with making a decision that contradicts them, you can check in with yourself and determine whether the choice you’re making seems right for you.
2. Spend your time with people who lift you up rather than bring you down.
Surround yourself with people you can count on for support and who help you be your best. Establish relationships with sober friends instead of people who abuse alcohol or other substances.
The more time you spend with people who have the same goals and values as you, the less likely you are to experience unhealthy peer pressure. Even better, associate with people you admire and respect, especially people who have a lot of self-discipline.
Even though you surround yourself with people who lift you up, you will have to deal with people who have different values than you. Remind yourself of what your values are and how you will stick to your plan. Also, remember that the right social circles will be supportive of your healthy living goals. They will help hold you accountable and encourage you to keep moving forward.
3. Maintain your distance from people who pressure you.
It’s common to receive pushback from peers when you decide to make a positive change for yourself. Rather than feeling guilt or shame, promise yourself to spend less time with people who pressure you.
4. Plan ahead.
Be prepared for situations when you’re likely to experience pressure. Determine how you’ll stick up for yourself. You might even want to rehearse what you might say or come up with a “broken-record” statement you can repeat.
5. Assert yourself.
As an adult, you may need to remind yourself that just because someone else thinks something is a good idea, it doesn’t mean it’s a good idea for you. Don’t be afraid to be assertive when you respond.
6. Devise an exit strategy.
Sometimes, the only thing you can do for yourself is to leave the situation completely. When you start to feel pressured by a friend or co-worker, tell them someone needs you at home, you have to go to an important meeting, or just say “I have to go.” The idea is to remove yourself from the situation and the pressure.
7. Find other things to do.
For many people, the thought of entering drug rehab and beginning the journey to recovery can be frightening or offputting. This is often due to the fear of boredom or the belief that sobriety equals a lack of fun. But, the truth of the matter is that excessive drinking and drug use only cause problems. Living without these issues allows people to find other ways to have fun and enjoy themselves!
Perhaps, after going through addiction treatment, you will find that you can focus more on your mental health. Maybe therapy will become a normal and positive part of your week. You might also find more time and energy to concentrate on your physical health. Maybe exercise can be a part of your daily activities.
Treatment and recovery are not always easy. But, you will find that living without the pressures of substance abuse in your life is much more enjoyable and rewarding than you could ever imagine!
Addiction Treatment at North Jersey Recovery Center
Has your desire to go along with your peers caused you to develop a drug or alcohol addiction? You wouldn’t be the first one to have that happen. But you can do something about it.
At North Jersey Recovery Center, we strive to provide comprehensive addiction treatment programs to help those who are suffering from alcohol or drug abuse. Whether you are a young person who has succumbed to the effects of a friend’s negative influence, or you are an older adult struggling to overcome prescription drug abuse, we are here to help.
If you fear that the development of addiction has caused irreversible effects on your mind or body, please know that it is not too late. While we understand your concerns, we also believe that you can change for the better. Addiction doesn’t have to be the end of your story.
We use evidence-based treatment options and have several different levels of care. So you can be sure that your treatment program is created specifically for you. Whether it’s for you or someone you love, you owe it to yourself to contact us. Exercise your right to live addiction-free!