Does Peer Pressure Lead to Teen Drug Abuse?

30. March 2016

Even in adulthood people are strongly influenced by the society that they are a part of. From the clothes we wear to the foods we eat, whether you realize it or not, we are who we are partially due to the world around us. As teenagers, the impact that our peers have on us is much greater. We’re still plastic, we can be easily molded and influenced by the basic human need of being accepted.

Most teenagers want to fit in, they want to be liked and they want to be accepted. No one strives to be the outcast, it goes against our basic survival instinct. Peer pressure can lead to us to do things we would’ve never done. We all remember D.A.R.E classes and similar “Say No to Drug” classes, but sometimes giving someone the cold shoulder isn’t enough to get them to ease off.

Drug use amongst teens isn’t on the rise but the drug they’re using are becoming more and more dangerous. The two most abused substances amongst teenagers are still marijuana and alcohol. These are the two staple substances in high schools and they have been for decades. Over 20% of high school students report smoking marijuana over the past 30 days, over 30% report being drunk or having a drink over the past 30 days. Some of these students may have never smoked weed if their peers hadn’t suggested it to them.

When teenagers are experimenting with new substances there is obviously a risk associated with it. That level of risks gets higher and higher as the drugs become more serious. When teenagers start experimenting with cocaine, molly, prescription pills and heroin their chances of harming themselves are very high. The chances of their experimentation turning into abuse and addiction becomes more likely. Those drugs have high chances of abuse, especially for teenagers.

teen girls at party

Why Are Teenagers More Likely to Give In To Peer Pressure?

When adults and teenagers make a decision they compare the risk and reward before taking action. The difference is teenagers are much more likely to disregard the risk and mainly focus on the reward. “In a NIDA-funded study, teens driving with their friends in the car were more likely to take risks—like speeding through yellow lights—if they knew that two or more of their friends were watching. Teens were also significantly more likely to act this way than adults in the same experiment.”
Teenagers have a much higher want to impress and satisfy their friends, this can override their fear of taking risks. Teenagers want to fit in, they want friends and crave acceptance and positive reinforcement.

A study done about teenage driving sums up their want to take risks pretty well:

“New research on the adolescent brain provides support for laws, existing in some locales, that prohibit teen drivers from having peers as passengers. Drs. Laurence Steinberg and Jason Chein at Temple University in Philadelphia offered adolescents, young adults, and adults monetary rewards for “driving” around a computer-simulated track. In the simulation, traffic lights appearing at frequent intervals turned yellow as the cars approached, forcing risk-reward choices. The driver might save time by proceeding through, but doing so would risk a collision and cause more delay than stopping and waiting for green.

The adolescents, but not the older participants, chose the risky option significantly more often when they knew two of their friends were watching. Functional magnetic resonance imaging demonstrated that the friends’ presence heightened activity in the teens’ ventral striatum and orbitofrontal cortex—brain regions that predict and assess the value of reward. This social effect was especially pronounced when the teens made risky decisions to proceed through the yellow light. As the friends did not say anything to influence the drivers’ behaviors, the researchers concluded that the presence of peers is sufficient in itself to make risks feel more worthwhile to teens.” – study was done by NIDA

There isn’t a way to guarantee teenagers won’t abuse and experiment with drugs and alcohol, unless you lock them up in a room until they turn 30 (that is strongly suggested against). You can talk to your teens and explain the risks of drugs and alcohol but the fact of the matter is you can’t stop them from takings risks, peer pressure is a real thing that will cause people to do things they’ve never done.

Is a Loved One Struggling?

Is a loved one is struggling and could benefit from an intervention then reach out to us today. Is your teenager in the grips of an addiction? Contact Intervention Services now at 1-877-478-4621 to start the process of recovery. You don’t need to wait for things to get worse. An intervention can stop the pain and the chaos and. Bring peace of mind to you and your family, there is no charge to speak with one of our representatives, call today.