It’s a sad, but true, statistic that peer pressure has a significant link to addiction. This is particularly prevalent in young adults and teenagers.
This formative time of life is where people feel the most pressure to seek out a group to belong to, and feel under pressure to fit in.
People can find it difficult to say “no” to someone they respect when that person is involved in something like drugs and alcohol.
Studies have in fact shown that a child is as much as six times more likely to partake in alcohol use if their friends drink.
Whilst peer pressure is generally regarded to be a teenage issue, research suggests that it takes place throughout all age groups because peer groups continue all the way into adulthood.
However, recent statistics from NHS Digital suggest that young people in the 11-15 year old age group are drinking, taking drugs and smoking less than they have done in all previous decades on record. Additionally, the number of school children that have tried illegal drugs has halved in the last decade.
To counteract this, drug use has been found to be on the rise for the 16-24 age group. These findings suggest that whilst pressure to fit in is at its highest when someone is a teenager, young adults are actually more susceptible to peer pressure and there’s a bigger strain on mental health as a consequence.
This is true of adults too, who are also prone to succumbing to peer pressure. Because an adult does not seek approval in the same way that younger people do and feel more confident in their decision making, they are probably more susceptible.
Significant numbers of adults drink more than what is considered a healthy amount as they think this is their only way of having a social life.
Gambling, drug use and drinking are normalised in adult peer groups, which means it’s difficult to avoid these activities and easier to get involved in them regularly.
The Link Between Risky Behaviour and Peer Pressure
Evidence based studies, such as one performed by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, have established that the age group most likely to engage in risky behaviours are teenagers.
It was found that they are more likely to take part in activities such as running red traffic lights and speeding should their friends be present.
In these studies, participants behaved in this manner when their friends were onlookers even though they were not encouraged to do so.
As part of this study, all participants underwent a brain scan. The parts of the brain that calculate risk and reward displayed heightened activity when the subject’s friends were around.
As such, their peer group simply being present caused someone to consider risk and reward differently than if they were by themselves.
Risky behaviour and Alcohol use
On the face of it, risky behaviour and alcohol use may not seem related. But alcohol is accepted socially to be on the riskier scale of social situations.
When a person lets their guard down, which alcohol aids, they are more like to try to impress their friends and try to fit in. This makes taking part in risky activities more common.
Drugs and alcohol stimulate areas of the brain which release chemicals (serotonin and dopamine) that make us feel happy.
When doing something in a peer group, an individual can become addicted to their feelings borne from breaking or bending the rules – in addition to the feelings triggered by substances.
There are other risks for young people that develop substance abuse, alcohol problems and binge drinking.
These include, but are not limited, to previous substance use, a high availability of drugs or alcohol, growing up and living in poverty, aggressive behaviour and a lack of parental supervision.
These factors can contribute to a young person developing addictions or uncontrolled use of alcoholic drinks. Use of substances is often a coping mechanism to deal with problems such as a difficult homelife, or problems in school.
Parents and Peer Pressure
Children will begin to really care more about what their friends think as they grow up and join different peer groups, but the importance of parental influence is not to be understated.
Children continually look at their parents as role models, and examples of how to live their life.
This does not change even when they hit their teenage years. This means that parents have the chance to help their child to resist peer pressure.
A loving, supportive home environment is the best way to help any child. This creates an atmosphere of trust and being able to share any problems or positives.
Many parents make the mistake of forbidding children from certain activities which means their children are more likely to become secretive and keep things to themselves.
Teenagers who feel they can talk to their parents are more likely to come forward with problems, and this allows parents to intervene and head off all different types of peer pressure before it gets out of control.
Parents can help to set boundaries about alcohol consumption whilst being supportive by offering information about alcohol that is balanced, fair and truthful, encouraging their child to come to them with any problems without fear of reprisals, teaching the importance of thinking before acting and giving their children lifts to and from parties where drinking may take place.
The Role of Positive Peer Pressure
Not all peer pressure is negative – positive peer pressure can have real benefit. The best example of this is the kind you receive in recovery.
People recovering from an alcohol addiction share their experiences with other recovering people, and this causes addicts to try harder knowing their peers are watching and recovering alongside them.
At Rehab Clinics Group, we offer individual counselling as well as group sessions. This allows anyone who is struggling with alcohol abuse to share their fight with other people who are experiencing the same issues in life.
If you have any worries about your alcohol consumption, or are worried about a loved one who has perhaps gone to university recently and seems to be drinking way too much, why not call Rehab Clinics Group for a chat to put your mind at rest or take action if required?
We can be contacted via 0800 470 0382 or text help to 83222 and we can give you all the guidance that you require.