Peer pressure is an effort to persuade another person to adopt the behaviors of the persuader. It’s perhaps the most powerful influence behind substance use. The first exposure to illicit drugs typically happens to young people in familiar settings among friends. The widespread use of substances makes it difficult to avoid peer pressure and the temptation to try drugs. 

If you’re feeling too weak to stand up against peer pressure and drugs, Coastal Detox can equip you to say “no” or “never again”. Let us help you clear your body and mind of the substances and beliefs that are holding you captive to addiction.

Sobering Statistics

Alcohol and drug use among youth are pressing public health challenges across the globe. The World Health Organization (WHO) and Centers for Disease Control (CDC) say that early substance use carries a higher risk of developing dependence in adulthood. The agency also states that younger people “are disproportionately affected by substance use compared with people of older ages.”

These facts underscore the alarming prevalence of substance use among young people:

  • Worldwide, over 25% of teens aged 15-19 consume alcohol and over 13% of adolescents drink heavily. 
  • The WHO estimates that 4.7% of 15- and 16-year-olds used cannabis at least once in 2018.
  • According to the National Center for Drug Abuse Statistics (NCDAS), at least one in eight teenagers used an illicit drug in 2020.
  • The NCDAS says that half of teens have misused a substance at least once.
  • 86% of adolescents know someone who consumes tobacco, alcohol, or drugs during the school day.
  • Drug use among 8th graders spiked by 61% from 2016-2020.
  • 43% of college students misuse drugs.

How Does Peer Pressure Contribute to Substance Abuse?

peer pressure and addiction

Adolescence is a phase of human development in which the body matures and beliefs and habits become entrenched. Consequently, teens are at a critical point in life where the relationships and environments they participate in influence their decisions and actions. Increasing time with peers makes it easier to take on the attitudes and behaviors of those peers toward drug use.

Perceptions of Risk

Preventive Medicine Reports published an article discussing how the perceived risk of harm from cannabis use affects such use among US adolescents. The study found that perception of harm from using cannabis strongly correlated “with perception of peers using cannabis [and] perception of peers’ disapproval of cannabis use.” The perception of peers influenced risk perception significantly more than parental or school-related factors.

Gateway to Deeper Misuse

How teens feel about cannabis use can deter or encourage even more harmful choices. SAMHSA reports that cannabis use is associated with the development of other substance use disorders including tobacco, alcohol, and other illicit drugs. Get help for Detoing wiat Coastal DetoxThe above-mentioned study indicated that teens close to smoking or drinking peers are more likely to smoke or drink as well. On the other hand, those with close friends who disapprove of marijuana were 87% less inclined to use. 

What Are Some Ways People Experience Peer Pressure To Use Substances?

Peer pressure to indulge in alcohol and drugs permeates our society. It’s all too easy to access legal and illegal substances for recreational use. Temptation can lurk in the home or community, at school, and even on the job. Peer pressure can be outright or indirect, suggestive or aggressive.

At Home

Unfortunately, many impressionable young people grow up in homes or neighborhoods where an adult or teen uses alcohol or drugs. The person with SUD may offer a drink or drugs. They might tease the younger person for “being chicken” if they don’t try the substance. Even if the substance users verbally discourage a young person from doing drugs, their behavior can have the opposite effect.

At School

Frequently, teens become familiar with drugs because of friends and acquaintances at school or college. The desire to “fit in” with schoolmates makes many adolescents and young adults succumb to peer pressure and drugs. A study on alcohol use in college shows that heavy drinking is a popular activity worldwide.

At Work

Adults are not immune to peer pressure and substance use. Alcohol is a socially accepted psychoactive substance, and the temptation to consume or overconsume will persist throughout our lifetimes. Drinking alcohol is often a major fixture in business discussions and forming professional relationships.

Among Males

In a BMC Public Health study, some men reported that abstaining from alcohol evoked challenges to their masculinity. The article stated: “The quantity, and type, of alcohol consumed, was widely viewed as a strong social marker of gender identity and sexual orientation.” Some drinkers associate not drinking with a lack of money as well, another slight on perceived masculinity.

This research echoes other work where drinking is described as universally expected and normal. Some individuals see it as the “natural” way to socialize for men and do it almost without thinking. One study participant said: “I can’t think of a thing that you go out to in the evening… where you don’t drink…”

Feeling “Outside”

According to the above article, non-drinkers deal with stereotyping because of their choices. People who consume alcohol might call them judgemental or boring. Those who abstain face difficulty with getting into conversations or socializing with those who drink.

How Can People Combat Peer Pressure and Drugs?

Parents of children and teens can enlist the help of their pediatrician in the fight against peer pressure and drugs. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) says that young people look to their physicians as authoritative information sources. Teens are willing to talk about substance use with these professionals if they believe the discussion will remain confidential. This may be the only opportunity for a health professional to discuss peer and substance use with your teen.


The AAP recommends substance use screening at every yearly physical exam. Teens should also undergo screening if they have mental disorders including behavioral issues, anxiety, or depression. Adolescents with these and other conditions have an increased risk of substance use.

Brief Intervention

When screening reveals drug use, the pediatrician can provide a brief intervention. This is a short conversation to encourage the young user to change their behavior. The AAP says that brief interventions “can increase quit rates among new or low-frequency users.” In cases of higher use, though, a teen needs a referral to treatment.

School Experience and Extracurricular Activities

Teens who find school meaningful and participate in extracurricular activities are less likely to use drugs. The Preventive Medicine Reports article found that “positive school perception” and after-school programs help deter negative peer pressure and drug use. Parents and other caring adults can work to boost school engagement and involvement in school- and community-based social opportunities.

Peer Education

Peer education intervention programs can help leverage peer pressure against drug use among teens. A Journal of Child & Adolescent Substance Abuse study found that positive peers and basic education about addiction lowered the incidence of drug use. Participants, ages 14 to 16, demonstrated an enhanced capability to avoid substance use.

Limiting Interactions with Negative Peer Pressure

The BMC Public Health paper shared that “strategically selecting peers” was an effective technique for non-drinkers and moderate drinkers to avoid peer pressure and substance use. Likewise, having peers who respected and encouraged decisions not to consume alcohol strengthened the resolve to abstain. The Brazilian study noted that involvement with religious groups can help steer people away from negative peer pressure and drugs.

When You Can’t Avoid Peer Pressure

Your friends may surprise you with their drug use and not want to take your “no” for an answer. In the thick of temptation to use alcohol or drugs against your better judgment, you can use these escape routes. The National Institute on Drug Abuse suggests these strategies for resisting peer pressure and substance use:

  • Be the designated driver: Everyone wants to arrive alive, so your friends will appreciate your sobriety.
  • Cover yourself: Keep a glass or bottle of water, tea, or soda with you so that you’ll already have something to drink.
  • Point to your parents, spouse, or partner: Tell your friends that your loved ones will check to see if you’ve been drinking.
  • Blame school or sports: Explain that you need to be prepared and sober for an exam, sports event, or upcoming social obligation.
  • Move around: Find something else to do, socialize with others, or leave the scene for a few minutes or permanently.

Detox from Peer Pressure and Drug Use at Coastal Detox

If you’ve given in to unhealthy peer pressure and substance abuse, you can turn around safely at Coastal Detox. We use medication-assisted treatment with various holistic therapies to ease your detoxification experience. Our medically supervised detox programs address all types of SUDs. Don’t let the fear of withdrawal symptoms or losing friends hold you back. Contact us today for a fresh, new start in your life.