The term “peer pressure” is often associated with children, teenagers, and young adults and it’s usually considered to be something negative. You may think about when your peers encouraged you to skip school or use illicit substances. If you’re a parent, you may be constantly worried that your kids will be pressured into doing the wrong things because they want to appear cool. However, there is something called positive peer pressure and it can make your life better no matter your age. What is The role of positive peer pressure in addictive recovery?
While young people may generally be more susceptible to peer pressure, adults are also influenced by the people around them.
If you’re in recovery from drug or alcohol addiction, you need to make sure you’re surrounded by people who will have a positive influence on you. In this article, we’ll discuss the various types of peer pressure and get into why positive peer pressure is so important when fighting addiction.
What is Peer Pressure?
Peers are people of equal standing. They are often people of the same age but they may also be of the economic class or social status and they’re likely to have similar interests. A peer group is a collection of people of roughly the same age and status who spend time with each other.
Peer groups are an important source of social support because they:
- Act as a source of information
- Provide a shoulder to lean on during difficult times
- Provide physical assistance
- Help individuals understand who they are and how they fit into the world around them
It is therefore not surprising that the peer group exerts a lot of influence whether intentionally or unintentionally.
Peer pressure is the influence of people of similar standing on the life decisions of an individual. In some cases, peer pressure is negative in that a person is encouraged or cajoled into doing something against their beliefs or even against the law.
Many children and teenagers give in to negative peer pressure. This is largely because they want to fit in or they want to be liked by the other young people in their school or community. However, some give in because they’re curious and they want to try new things even if the consequences are negative.
Negative peer pressure can be a serious problem if it prevents an individual from making the right decisions. It can also lead to a range of behavioral problems which tend to involve substance abuse and violence. However, it is important to note that not all peer pressure is negative and one’s peer group can be a source of positive influence.
What is Positive Peer Pressure?
The fact that people can positively influence each other doesn’t get as much attention. However, it stands to reason that if a person can be influenced to smoke or drink, they can also be influenced to participate in healthy, wholesome activities instead. In the same way that a person can learn bad behaviors and pick up dangerous habits from watching other people, they can also unlearn them.
While spending time with one group of people may pressure an individual to engage in illegal or dangerous activities, spending time with another group may encourage them to get involved in sports, art, or music. Positive peer pressure doesn’t only come from schoolmates or neighborhood friends. It can also come from family members, especially those of a similar age.
Types of Peer Pressure
When you think about peer pressure, you may think about a person or group of people verbally encouraging another to do something. However, there are many different types of peer pressure. Let’s start by looking at two broad categories: direct peer pressure and indirect peer pressure.
Direct Peer Pressure
Direct peer pressure is when someone tries to influence another person’s decisions by talking to them or displaying certain behaviors in an effort to get them to join in. This type of peer pressure is obvious and it can be confrontational. If your friends tell you to do something with them, saying no can make you feel like an outcast.
This can be difficult to handle. People of all ages can benefit from coming up with planned responses they can use if a peer asks them to do something they shouldn’t.
Indirect Peer Pressure
Peer pressure doesn’t have to be direct to be persuasive. In fact, people are not always aware that they’re being subjected to indirect peer pressure and this can make them even more vulnerable. Indirect peer pressure occurs when a person feels influenced to act in a particular way because of the decisions and actions of other people.
When large groups of people are doing the same thing, most individuals want to be included. This type of peer pressure is responsible for everything from fashion trends and social media fads to drug and alcohol use.
Many people start drinking or using drugs in their teens because their friends are doing it and they seem to be having a good time. Feeling like they’re missing out can easily influence a person to start drinking. No one has to actually tell them to drink.
How can you avoid giving in to indirect negative peer pressure? Being aware of the consequences of your actions is a good idea. For some people, knowing that drug use can result in addiction or overdose is enough to prevent them from abusing drugs or even trying them at all.
Other Forms of Peer Pressure
Peer pressure can be further broken down even further.
Spoken Peer Pressure
This type of peer pressure is the most direct and it can take the form of encouragement, suggestion, persuasion, or demands. It tends to be more effective if it is coming from a group. However, it can also be highly effective if it comes from one respected or admired individual.
Passive Peer Pressure
Passive peer pressure is indirect. It’s more an individual’s response to their peers’ behavior than any real pressure being exerted on the individual. A person may feel pressured to act like someone they admire. Therefore, they may make life decisions based on a need to fit in rather than their own preferences.
Cultural Peer Pressure
Cultural peer pressure is also indirect. It is so subtle and commonplace that people often don’t even realize it is happening. People of all ages can fall victim to cultural peer pressure. One reason why it can be difficult to identify cultural peer pressure is that most members of the community succumb to this pressure.
If you think about it, you may realize that there are many things you do solely because everyone else in society does them. You may also change your behavior when you move from one cultural group to another instead of remaining true to yourself. Cultural peer pressure can easily contribute to drug and alcohol use and abuse.
The Role of Peer Pressure in Drug Use and Abuse
Often, people distance themselves from sober relatives and friends when they are in the grips of addiction. They spend their time either alone or with other people who also struggle to control their substance use. Unfortunately, this peer group won’t help them when they decide to enter treatment.
For this group, substance abuse may be the key thing that binds them together. Think of a group of drinking buddies or a group of college friends who always party together. Drug and/or alcohol use is considered normal by each member of the group and anything else may be considered deviant and suspicious.
People who are part of a group of drug or alcohol abusers get the social support of any other peer group. For example, they share information about sourcing and using drugs. They may also physically assist each other by sharing substances or paraphernalia.
Like other peer groups, they also provide emotional support for each other and offer feedback on how each member is behaving it relates to the group. Notably, these peers will not see substance abuse in a negative light. This is why people who belong to a group that supports drug and/or alcohol abuse are a lot less motivated to stop drinking or using.
Peer groups provide a feeling of comfort and belonging. Therefore, it can be very difficult to leave even when you know that substance abuse is causing problems in your life. However, since these individuals are unlikely to support your decision to seek treatment and may even try to sabotage you, you will likely have to give up their friendship.
If you enter treatment for drug addiction but continue to spend a lot of time with people who drink and use drugs, your risk of relapse will be higher. What you’ll need is positive peer pressure.
How Positive Peer Pressure Can Help Individuals Recovering from Addiction
Peer pressure can be a good thing if a person struggling with drug or alcohol addiction surrounds themself with sober companions. Instead of being encouraged to drink or use drugs, they would be encouraged to participate in a variety of sober activities.
When they observe how their peers behave, their desire to fit in will lead them to make healthy choices. They’ll want to seek therapy when dealing with difficult emotions instead of turning to drugs or alcohol.
It is true that people struggling with addiction are surrounded by people with a similar problem when they enter an addiction treatment facility. However, these programs are designed to chart a path toward recovery. The aim is to bring about positive change in participants and help them to avoid the influences that can lead to relapse.
Though difficult, it is imperative that people in recovery do everything they can to avoid bad influences. This means avoiding people, places, and things associated with drug or alcohol use wherever possible. Instead, it becomes necessary to form relationships with people with different values who can help them to make better life decisions. The natural place to start is by creating connections in sobriety treatment.
After leaving rehab, finding a recovery community close to home is essential. If you belong to a group that supports recovery, you’ll be more motivated to continue making positive choices for yourself. Having sober friends in recovery helps to increase your self-efficacy – your belief that you can achieve something.
The higher your sense of self-efficacy, the higher the likelihood that you will achieve what you put your mind to. If you see your peers leading happy, healthy, fulfilling lives without drinking or using drugs, it can motivate you to do likewise. Your new peer group will take on the same social functions as the old one except that they will influence you to make healthy choices.
How to Combat Negative Peer Pressure
Given the links between peer pressure and drug abuse, it’s important to think about how you will react when you face peer pressure. Not everyone will understand or respect that you don’t want to drink or use drugs so it’s likely that you will have to deal with some direct peer pressure. If you go into bars or attend social events, you’re also likely to encounter indirect peer pressure. Here are some ways in which you can handle it.
Bring a Sober Friend
If you have to go into a situation where you may be pressured to use substances, having backup may be an excellent idea. Invite someone from your peer support group who can hold you accountable. You can also invite a friend who isn’t in recovery but is willing to stay sober and offer moral support. There’s no need to go into these situations alone and unprepared.
Plan Ahead and Avoid Triggering Situations
One of the things you will learn in treatment is how to identify your triggers. Knowing the people, places, and emotions that drive you to drink or use drugs will help you to avoid these situations. Particularly if you’re at the start of your recovery journey, you’ll need to avoid putting yourself in situations where you’ll face negative peer pressure.
If you’re going to a social event, think about who is likely to be there and whether they’re likely to pressure you into using substances. This will teach your brain to anticipate problems and avoid them when possible.
Come up With Excuses for Not Drinking or Using Drugs
It won’t always be possible to avoid situations where you may be tempted to use substances. Some people are comfortable with disclosing that they’re in recovery but not all are. If you have to go into a situation where someone may offer you a drink, try to have an excuse prepared ahead of time.
Visualize some of the situations in which you may be tempted and then come up with a response. For example, if you go to an office party, you can say that you’re driving or you have to get up early in the morning. It’s a good idea to get yourself a non-alcoholic drink and hold it in your hand to prevent people from offering to get you a drink.
Politely Say No
It can be hard to say no in situations where you’re expected to drink or use drugs, especially if you used to participate before. Even friends and family may pressure you even though they know you’re trying to turn your life around. You will need to build up the courage to continue doing what’s best for you.
Some people will think you feel you’re better than them or that you’re secretly judging them because they still use substances. You’ll need to establish boundaries and make it clear that you’ve made a personal choice to prioritize your wellbeing.
Spend More Time with Sober People
Most people will give in to peer pressure at some point so why not make sure it is positive? You’ll pick up a lot of habits from the people you spend most of your time with. Making a point of fostering sober relationships will make it a lot easier to manage your own sobriety. You’ll be at an advantage if some of your friends have been sober for a long time. As time goes on, the idea of using drugs and alcohol will seem a little strange.
Be Patient with Yourself
The first few times you refuse drugs or alcohol will likely be the hardest. You may worry that you’re offending the other person or giving them a reason to judge you. However, it will get easier over time. Not only will you get more comfortable saying no but people who know you will stop offering you substances.
Get Professional Guidance from The Discovery House
Peer support is important but it needs to be accompanied by professional help. When you participate in cognitive-behavioral therapy or dialectical behavioral therapy, you’ll learn to anticipate negative peer pressure and respond to it in the most appropriate way. In therapy, you’ll also meet people who are on the same journey as you and you’ll help each other along the way.
If you need help with achieving or maintaining sobriety, contact The Discovery House in Los Angeles. We offer a variety of treatment options and we accept most forms of private insurance. Call us today to ask questions or verify your insurance.