Peer pressure and addiction are often linked, particularly in teenagers and young adults. This is because these formative years is the period in which people feel the most pressure to fit in and find a group to belong to.

When young people use substances such as drugs and alcohol, peer pressure can make it very difficult for a child to say no if they want to fit in. A recent study found that young adults and teenagers are more likely to consume alcohol when they perceive that drinking is common among peers and friends, and also when their friends report drinking.

Although the issue of peer pressure and addiction is generally thought of as a teenage issue, research has shown that peer pressure can also occur in older groups, and peer pressure and drug addiction have a correlation even in adults.

Older adults, too, can be vulnerable to peer pressure. In many ways, because they are not looking for approval to the same degree as younger people and feel more capable of making their own decisions, they could be more susceptible.

A large number of adults of all ages drink more than the recommended limit to maintain a social life and schedule with peers. Using drugs, gambling and drinking can be normalised in adult friendship groups, and addiction can result from casual use with peers.


Peer Pressure and Risky Behaviour

Peer pressure can impact the behaviour of people in several ways, for example, with substance abuse or by performing risky behaviours including dangerous driving, shoplifting, smoking, breaking the law or risky sexual acts.

This is what causes the link between peer pressure and addiction – often if other friends or people do something, a person may feel inclined to do the same to fit in and experience the same things. This can have devastating effects down the line, such as an alcohol or drug addiction, a criminal record and more.

Young people are more likely to be affected by peer pressure because they feel the need to fit in. As a result, many young people try drugs or binge drinking which can cause numerous negative effects.


How Risky Behaviour Leads to Substance Abuse

But what role does peer pressure have in addiction? Engaging in risky behaviour such as trying cannabis, cocaine or other drugs to fit in with others can lead to substance abuse long term. Addiction can affect any person from any background – first trying different substances can be the start of years of drug or alcohol abuse.

Alcohol and drugs have a number of effects on the brain, including the release of dopamine and serotonin which are the chemicals that make us feel bonded and happy. When drinking, using drugs, or taking part in risky activities with a peer group, a person may become addicted to the feeling.

Although addiction can happen to anyone, there are several other risk factors for young people who develop substance abuse issues that make them more likely to be affected by addiction.

These include:

  • Lack of parental supervision
  • Availability of drugs or alcohol
  • Poverty
  • Aggressive behaviour
  • Previous substance use

Many of these factors contribute to the chances of a young person developing an addiction, as substances help them to cope with social problems such as an absent parent or problems at school. The role of peer pressure in addiction development can be huge, but there are numerous reasons why a young adolescent or adult may develop a substance abuse disorder.


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How Parents Can Beat Peer Pressure

Even though children can be influenced by peers and friends their age, parental influence is still very important to them. Children often look to their parents as an example of how to live their lives, even when they become teenagers, meaning that when handled properly a parent can challenge the negative influence of peer pressure and addiction.

The best thing that parents can do to help their children is to create a loving and supportive home environment, where children feel that they can talk about anything. A lot of parents make the mistake of forbidding their children from certain activities, meaning that their kids are more likely to become detached and secretive.

If teenagers feel that they can talk to their parents and that they can get help if they need it, parents can intervene before an addiction develops and this creates a safer environment.

Some ways in which parents can help to set boundaries regarding drugs or alcohol, whilst still remaining supportive, include:

  • Picking up and dropping off their children at parties and events where they may be drinking or using drugs.
  • Offering information about alcohol and drug use which is truthful and balanced.
  • Teaching the importance of thinking things through before acting on them.
  • Encouraging teenagers to come to them with any problem, without fear of being punished.


Positive Effects of Peer Pressure and Addiction

The upside of peer pressure is that it doesn’t always have to be negative. A great example of positive peer pressure is the kind that you receive in addiction recovery. Being in rehab with other people who are trying to get clean and sober can encourage addicts to try harder with their detox, as they know that their friends are watching and getting healthy with them.

Recent research suggests that peer pressure is associated with emerging adult substance use, in both negative and positive ways. This means that there is a role in peer pressure and drug addiction that can be positive, such as during the recovery journey and by seeing others recover from substance abuse.

Inpatient rehab promotes positive peer pressure in addiction, as a sense of community is formed by those trying to achieve long-term recovery. Group therapy sessions and daily therapies take place as a group, so there is also a role for positive peer pressure in these environments.


How to Overcome Peer Pressure and Addiction

There are a number of ways to overcome peer pressure, from reaching out to a loved one for support or discussing your feelings with others.

Some other tips to overcome peer pressure and addiction include:

  • Stay true to yourself – if you don’t want to try drugs, alcohol, or risky behaviours, you don’t need to.
  • Enforce your boundaries and tell your peers ‘no means no’.
  • Surround yourself with people who don’t pressure you to do things.
  • Find a buddy to help support your decision.
  • Use positive peer pressure to help others.


Get Help for Addiction

At Ocean Recovery Centre, we offer both individual counselling and group therapy sessions to help people share their thoughts and struggles with others experiencing the same thing as them. Social activities and wellbeing therapies are performed in groups and there is always trained staff to talk to when things get tough.

The role of peer pressure and addiction can be positive and this is why so many people find residential rehab to be so beneficial for recovery. The benefits of recovering with others in groups are numerous and allow the addict to use a positive form of peer pressure to recover, unlike peer pressure which originally led them down the path of addiction.

If you would like to talk to us about your or a loved one’s situation then please call 0800 880 7596, and the team at Ocean Recovery Centre will get straight back to you.

John Gillen - Author - Last updated: October 11, 2023

John is one UK’s leading professionals in the addiction recovery industry. Pioneering new treatment techniques such as NAD+ and ongoing research into new therapy techniques such as systematic laser therapy, John is committed to providing the very best treatment for people throughout the UK and Europe. During his extremely busy schedule, John likes to regularly update our blog section with the latest news and trends in the industry to keep visitors to our site as well informed as possible on everything related to addiction treatment.