Handling Peer Pressure

Published by John Gillen | Last updated: 3rd March 2021

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. Once 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.

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.

We all have moments in our lives when we lack confidence and just generally don’t feel good about ourselves. When low self-esteem continues on for a long period of time, it can have a very harmful effect on our mental health, particularly on the opinion we have of ourselves.

Sometimes low self-esteem could stem from childhood where teachers, parents, siblings, or friends send us different messages about ourselves, both positive and negative, although the negative messages tend to be the ones that stick with you.

Another cause of low self-esteem could be a stressful or traumatic event in your life such as a bereavement or a serious illness which has significantly affected your confidence and your outlook on life. You may find yourself avoiding social situations or reluctant to try new things as a way to make you feel safe in your comfort zone.

Thankfully, there are some ways which we can boost our self-esteem, but first of all we need to identify the negative beliefs we have about ourselves then challenge why we believe these things.

It can be helpful to pinpoint when you first started thinking these things by writing them down, followed by positive messages about yourself to challenge the negatives. Always remember to be kind to yourself, learn to be assertive, give yourself a challenge, and eventually you’ll start to feel as though you can say no when dealing with peer pressure.


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.

There are so many substances out there, the majority of which are very easy to become addicted to or dependent on. Pretty much all of them will cause painful withdrawal symptoms if you try to stop taking the substance.

Whereas if you continue to consume alcohol or drugs, you’re at very high risk of damaging your physical and mental health, destroying relationships with family and friends, and devastating your finances and career; trust us, there are no positives when it comes to substance abuse.


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 or Narcotics 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.

Here at Cassiobury Court, our drug and alcohol rehab can offer further guidance on how to overcome peer pressure. Just give us a call on 01923 369 161 or text HELP to 83222.

John Gillen

John Gillen - Author Last updated: 3rd March 2021

John Gillen is a leading addiction treatment expert with over 15 years of experience providing evidence-based treatment methods for individuals throughout the UK. John also co-authors the book, The Secret Disease of Addiction, which delves into how the addictive mind works and what treatment techniques work best.