Teens: Ways to Avoid Drug Use While Facing Peer Pressure

peer pressureThere have been countless news stories and psychology studies looking at how people are at their most susceptible to peer pressure when they’re in their teens, and there are just as many anti-drug campaigns aimed at this demographic. Scientists suggest that we’re most susceptible to peer pressure when we’re teens because at this age, we receive greater pleasure than adults from behaviors that have a major “reward”… and we view being liked by our peers as particularly rewarding. (Wall Street Journal)

Partially because of this, it’s clear that teen drug use is a problem. In 2010, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA) released a report that said in an average day, more than one million teenagers ages 12-17 smoked cigarettes, more than half a million drank alcohol, and roughly 563,000 used marijuana. The report also found that on an average day, there were 465 emergency room visits for teens ages 12-17 due to the use of illegal drugs, alcohol, or the misuse of prescription medications. (SAMSHA)

So what’s a teenager to do when they are surrounded by drug use on a regular basis and the psychology of peer pressure is working against them? Fortunately, there are steps that teens can take to make it less likely that they fall into a pattern of drug abuse.

Get involved in a sport or club

A study from the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse found that one of the main risk factors for teen drug use is boredom. (USA Today) So to avoid the type of boredom that could lead to experimenting with drugs, teens should get involved in a sport, club, or other extracurricular activity. Joining this type of activity may also give teens a support network of teammates and friends who do not use drugs.

Set future goals

Teens should establish a set of concrete goals for their future—such as wanting to get into a certain college or wanting to make the varsity tennis team by senior year. Having specific goals can help teens see how drug use could get in the way of the things they want to accomplish.


Have a positive role model who avoided peer pressure

By identifying a positive role model, such as an older sibling, a teacher, or a coach, teens can learn to adopt positive behaviors. Having a role model can also help with goal setting; for example, if a teen has a great teacher, they might be inspired to become a great teacher themselves and know that they need to avoid abusing drugs to do so.

Find friends who don’t use drugs

If teens find that they’re constantly surrounded by friends who use drugs and feel that the temptation is too strong, it may be time for them to find friends who don’t use drugs. This is never an easy thing to do; it may make teens feel like they’re “abandoning” people they’ve been friends with for years, but the most effective way to avoid peer pressure is to remove yourself from the most pressure-filled situations.

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