Adolescence and Substance Abuse: Just How Much Influence Do Peers Have?

Adolescence and Substance Abuse: Just How Much Influence Do Peers Have?

Peer pressure is one of the most commonly talked about aspects of adolescence, and it’s because during this growth period, the brain is still developing. Teens’ critical thinking skills haven’t fully developed yet, and simple peer interactions can cause a person to make irrational decisions, regardless of the consequences. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) state that people aged 12-20 years old consume one-tenth of all alcohol consumed in the United States, with alcohol, marijuana and tobacco being the most commonly used substances. When peer pressure is involved, adolescents are likely to want to feel included – bullying tactics are obviously something teens want to avoid, and peer pressure can weigh heavily on a person’s decision making if it presents itself.

A few years ago, researchers from the University of Connecticut published a study in the journal, “Impact on Adolescents in Substance Use Recovery”. It was found that peers actually have a greater influence on teens than parents – the study’s results also showed that teens with closer connections to their parents (or have a more parental figure in their life) are less likely to abuse substances than those who have guardians that do not take on a more “parent” role in their lives. At such a vulnerable time, the peer pressure can start off simple:

  • “Hey, do you want to try some alcohol with us? We’re going to be drinking tonight.”
  • “Eh, I’m not sure. I don’t really want to stay out late because I have a class early tomorrow morning.”
  • “Come on, are you always going to do what your parents want you to do? Fine – be lame.”
  • “Well, okay. I’m only going to drink a little bit though.”

The process of standing up for oneself in high school can be tricky, depending on the context, whose around and how comfortable a person feels. Some teens struggle with family issues or other emotional concerns in their private life, and substances feel like the only way out of those uncomfortable feelings. If you have a teen, talk to them about the dangers of peer pressure. Explain to them that not everyone is looking out for their best interest – and so they have to. Set a good example for them. Build a strong connection. If your teen is abusing substances, guide them to seek the help they need. They’ll be grateful you did.

Adolescent Recovery of Cumberland Heights (ARCH) originally began in 1985 when there were few other adolescent programs like it in the country. In 2019, we’re expanding our continuum of services with ARCH Academy, a unique program that offers 60 days to 6 months of residential care to adolescent boys ages 14-18 who are struggling with alcohol and/or drug addiction. This new program stems from Cumberland Heights, which has been around since 1966, and is located in Kingston Springs, Tennessee. The adolescent age is a critical time for development, making this a crucial time of positive influence. For more information, call us today at 1-800-646-9998.