Handling Peer Pressure

A common reason that people begin taking drugs or drinking alcohol, particularly young people, is peer pressure.

Belonging to a social group that endorses drug use can lead to experimentation that can lead to addiction. If you seek help to overcome your addiction, drug rehabilitation is only the first step. One the initial treatment has finished, it is up to you to resist the temptations and triggers that the world will throw at you. Peer pressure is a major cause of relapse and knowing how to cope with it is essential to help you achieve a long-term recovery.

What is Peer Pressure?

Your peers are those who are similar in age, status or within the same profession. Peer pressure occurs when you participate in activities or behaviour in a way that does not come naturally to do. It can be that they persuade you to do things or that everyone else is doing it and you want to fit in. People are often worried that not joining in will result in them losing their friends. Being in a social group that participates in anti-social activities can normalise the behaviour and even blur the lines between right and wrong. Common examples of peer pressure include using alcohol or drugs but can also include committing crimes and even eating disorders.
However, there are examples of positive peer pressure. Sometimes your friends will encourage each other to improve their lives and carry out activities that improve health.

Choose your friends wisely

Just as social circles that promote drug use can make it difficult to say no, being surrounded by those who support abstinence can increase the chances of success in recovery. If you are recovering from addiction, your friends should support you through it and should not try and tempt you away from your path. Similarly, if you have not had any experience of addiction and do not want to get caught up in drug use or excessive drinking, your friends should not put pressure on you or make you feel uncomfortable. If they do, it might be worth asking if their friendship is worth your long term health.

Have your excuses ready

From time to time, you will find yourself in situations where drinking becomes the norm. If you have experience of addiction, it can be tempting to shut yourself away. However, enjoying social events and enjoying life is important for recovery. If you attend a social event and someone offers you a drink, just saying “no” is not enough for some people and they may get pushy.

Photo: Channel 4
Having a legitimate excuse ready as to why you cannot drink will help you get out of some tempting situations before they begin. Think along the lines of:

  • No thanks, I’m driving
  • No thanks, I’m on antibiotics
  • No thanks, I’m an alcoholic

If the situation gets too much, having an excuse ready to leave early may be a good idea.

Improve your self-esteem

Those with low self-esteem will be more likely to give in to negative peer pressure. Take steps to help you feel better about yourself by setting realistic goals to improve your life. Learn how to handle criticism and accept compliments.

Be Aware

The more information that you have on the dangers of drug or alcohol abuse and relapse, the more incentive you will have to stay clear. Knowing the risks attached to drug or alcohol use may make you think twice.

Share your experiences

If you feel under constant pressure, it can be easy to feel alone and isolated. This can leave you feeling vulnerable to relapse. If you have been through a rehabilitation programme, you may have received information on people you can contact if you are having difficulties. Alternatively, you can open up at support meetings, such as alcoholics anonymous, and get feedback from others who have been through a similar experience. You can even tell a family member to avoid those feelings of peer pressure bottling up inside of you.