Unfortunately, we all will have to deal with peer pressure at some time in our lives. Although peer pressure, the influence our peers have on our lives, is usually something that we deal with as children and teenagers, peer pressure is also definitely present for adults.
As adults, our spouses, friends, friends of spouses, and co-workers can all be our peers, and our peers can change as we get older. Likewise, our definition of what makes up a social circle can change, so peer pressure can be experienced at any age and in any situation. Usually, the term “peer pressure” is used when talking about behaviors that are not desirable, such as abusing alcohol or drugs. It is not usually used to describe more socially acceptable behaviors, such as exercising or studying. Drugs and peer pressure, for instance, can go hand-in-hand.
How Are Adults Affected by Peer Pressure?
It doesn’t matter who you are; 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 they should 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. Every feature of your life can be controlled by some type of peer pressure.
Peer Pressure and Substance Abuse
Substance use is dangerous at any age and there is no expiration date on the risk of developing a problem with alcohol or drugs. Addiction doesn’t discriminate. Many people start using heavily almost immediately and it progresses more slowly for others, but with equally dangerous results.
Being social animals, 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 drinking or drug use companions 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.
Peer Pressure or Peer Normalization
There is a difference between peer pressure and peer normalization. It is possible to be pressured into a behavior by other people without them explicitly encouraging you to do it. But your behavior shouldn’t be measured by the behavior of the people around you. If you suspect that you are drinking too much, snorting too much, etc., even if your friends are using the same amount, then you are doing too much.
Because adults aren’t looking for approval to the extent that younger people are, they could actually be more vulnerable. Many adults of all ages drink more than is healthy because this seems to be the way to have a social life. Gambling, using drugs, and drinking are normalized in some adult peer groups. This means that it is difficult to not take part in these activities because the opportunity to do it is always there.
Are You a Victim?
We all want to feel like we belong. There are a number of ways that you can be influenced and become a victim of peer pressure. If you have picked up the goals, beliefs, values, or hobbies because that is what the group of people around you believes in, then you have experienced peer pressure. Peer pressure and drug use is no different.
Every week, you swear you won’t stay for that last drink that leaves you feeling sick the next morning. You don’t want to, but there you are. Adult peer pressure is alive and active in your life, as well as the guilt and self-criticism that follows.
Whether you buckle to peer pressure to use substances as an adolescent or an adult, there is still a wide range of short- and long-term direct and indirect effects. The effects usually depend on the drug or drugs used, how they were used, how much was used, and the individual’s health.
Short-term effects of peer pressure and drug use may include:
- Appetite changes
- Difficulty sleeping
- Changes in heart rate
- Mood swings
- Heart attack
Long-term effects of peer pressure and drug use may include:
- Heart or lung disease
- Mental illness
Drug addiction is a brain disorder. While not everyone who tries drugs will become addicted, for some, drug use can change how certain brain circuits work. These changes make it harder for someone to stop using the drug even when it’s having negative consequences.
Peer pressure and substance abuse can also have indirect effects on the people taking 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
- Employment issues
- Relationship problems
- Criminal justice involvement
- Housing problems
Types of Peer Pressure
Adults of any age may experience peer pressure, and some experience the combination of peer pressure and substance abuse. 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 Peer Pressure
This type involves one person or a group asking another person to take part in some type of behavior. 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 pressure 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 be unspoken but still influence how we feel about ourselves.
Positive Peer Pressure
This type 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.
6 Tips for Coping With Negative Peer Pressure
Coping with negative peer pressure can be a struggle. Although peer pressure during adulthood is not 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 six 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. The more time you spend with people who have the same goals and values as you, the less likely you are to experience peer pressure. Even better, associate with people you admire and respect, especially people who have a lot of self-discipline.
They will not only help you keep up your own healthy habits but they might help you feel better about yourself, too. 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.
3. Maintain your distance from people who pressure you.
It’s common to receive pushback from peers when you decide to make a change for the positive in your life. 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. Being assertive is not rude, it’s making yourself clear. Being clear is actually polite.
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.
What to Do Now
Do you give in to peer pressure? We all do it now and then. But did your desire to go along with your peers cause a drug or alcohol addiction? You wouldn’t be the first one to have that happen, either. But you can do something about it.
At North Jersey Recovery Center, we have worked with many people in your situation and helped them go on to live fulfilling lives, true to their own values and goals. And you can, too.
We use evidence-based treatments 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. Don’t leave your future to chance.