Peer Pressure, Adolescents and Drug Use

By Angella Arjune Kaied
Kabir Association of Canada


What is Peer Pressure?

  • Teenagers seem to have more of a problem with peer pressure because they are just beginning to learn about who they are, and what their belief systems are. They can be easily swayed, especially if they have a strong desire to fit into certain groups, and they are becoming more and more self-reliant. (Dr. Bruce A. Epstein, author of “The Importance of Peer Pressure”)
  • Dictionary Definition: peer pressure is the pressure from one’s peers to behave in a manner similar or acceptable to them.
  • Normal part of growing up and everyone faces some sort of social pressure on a daily basis.

Adults feel the pressure to socialize with certain people, or to attend certain functions. Pre-school aged children are assessed on how they interact with their peers, and adolescents are similarly judged. “A healthy part of every child’s development is involvement with their peers.  This is especially true during adolescence, as teenagers develop a sense of independence from their parents.”

Is Peer Pressure Always a Bad Thing?

  • Peer pressure can be both a positive and negative experience.
  • Positive peer pressure can motivate teenagers to excel in certain areas like sports, and influence some to take positive action to help others, the environment, etc.
  • Positive peer pressure is the backbone of most cheering sections.
  • Negative peer pressure is when the teenagers are influenced to partake in deviant behavior, that is not in one’s character, nor is it morally sound, and it puts them at a risk for experiencing a negative outcomes.

Socialization and Peer Pressure:

  • Human beings are social creatures.
  • We have very few basic instincts to help us survive in the world.
  • We learn almost everything from others such as parents, peers, and teachers.
  • One survival instinct we do have that seems to be inborn is the fear of rejection.
  • This fear leads us to conform to the group so that we can fit in, and have a group to protect us from harm.
  • During adolescents the need to belong to a certain group is very strong.
  • Isolation and social rejection during adolescence can lead to serious behavioral problems and communication difficulties.
  • Teenagers will do a lot of different things to become a member of certain groups.
  • Some of those things could be simply changing their appearances, wearing the acceptable brand name shoes, or to more seriously engaging in behavior that is out of one’s character, such as drug use, risky behaviors like street car racing, etc.

When Peer Pressure Leads to Drug Use:

  • Peer pressure is one of three major influences on teenagers and drug use.
  • The other two are the existence of a drug-prone personality (someone who is interested in drugs on their own, and enjoy the feeling the drugs give them, or a person who is easily addicted to lots of different things) and an unsatisfactory parent-child relationship.
  • Some teenagers try alcohol because their friends are drinking. Some start to smoke because its what the cool kids are doing
  • Most teenagers will resort back to their own ideas about smoking and drinking

Substance Use Patterns of Canadian Youth:

  • Most commonly used substances are alcohol, tobacco, and cannabis.
  • Increase in cannabis use throughout the 1990s has been reported in all provinces.
  • Ecstasy use had increased eight-fold in Ontario students between 1993 and 1999.
  • Since early 1990s there has been an increase in the percentage of students reporting current use of more than one substance at a time, including illicit drugs.
  • Some provinces reported an increase in the percentage of students who engage in heavy drinking episodes, five drinks or more per occasion.
  • School drop-outs, or those at risk of leaving school, are at a higher risk for substance abuse, or are already regular or heavy users.
  • Young males are more likely than young females to engage in riskier forms of substance abuse.

Not all of the drug abuse going on amongst teenagers is due to peer pressure, however peers can and will influence some teenagers to engage in inappropriate behavior.

How Can We Help Our Teens Resist Peer Pressure?

Judy Halassy is a Youth Social Worker who has a few suggestions on how to raise such a teen.


  • Teens would naturally want to spend time with their friends.
  • But as a parent, make it a priority to spend time with your kids.
  • Go to their soccer games, their recitals, etc.
  • Get interested and involved in their lives.


  • Listen, listen, listen and hear what they are saying.
  • Don’t try to force your own viewpoints on them, let them share their ideas with you.


  • As teens share their ideas and thoughts, don’t ridicule them or say how immature their thinking is.


  • Help them explore their feelings about certain issues,
  • This will build their confidence on certain topics and it will help them be strong when confronted.


  • Positive discipline and setting limits give children a sense of security.
  • Consequences and rules need to be consistent


  • Let your child take responsibility for his/her actions
  • If they get in trouble at school, don’t go and defend their actions, let them realize what they did was wrong, and they need to be accountable for it.




  • Nurture interests and hobbies, the more things they’re interested in and are good at the less likely they will get into trouble.





  • Affection
  • Acceptance
  • Accomplishment