Peer pressure can have positive as well as negative effects on an individual teenager who is at greater risk of being influenced by it. Follow this article to know why do some teens give in to peer pressure and abuse drugs.

As children enter their teen years, they start making their own decisions and indulge in several activities. It is a shift in their life from childhood to adulthood, so the decisions they make in those years are a mixture of maturity and immaturity. It depends on several factors, such as family background, the child’s mental capabilities, and his environment.

There are a number of reasons why they end up falling for peer pressure and indulging in harmful activities, including drinking alcohol, casual sex, and drug abuse. In this article, we will cover the impact of peer pressure on a teenager’s life and why do some teens give in to peer pressure and abuse drugs. Lastly, some of the ways to deal with negative peer pressure.

What is peer pressure?

When a person wants to be accepted and valued by the people around him, his choices and activities are influenced by those people. He adopts their way of thinking and tries to take affirmation from them so that he can be accepted as one of them and not feel left out. A human is under peer pressure throughout his life as existing in this society requires a human to seek validation, but through strong cognitive development and self-confidence, one can control the influence.

This influence comes from a group of people called a peer group, who are usually of the same age group or gender. Teenagers surrounded by friends shape their behaviors and activities according to these friends. For instance, if a person starts dressing up in a certain way because his friends in college find it attractive or if a person starts attending a party every Saturday although he does not want to because staying at home is considered boring among his friends.

It is a natural instinct of humans to compare themselves to people of the same age and feel accepted in society so when they enter their teens; they are able to make independent choices for themselves. The choices made are often impulsive in these years as teens are immature, but peer pressure does not affect every teen in a negative way because there are certain complexities attached to it, including cognitive growth, resistance to peer pressure, and self-assurance of the person.

Types of peer pressure

Not all peer pressures are bad, as we learn several things through them which are necessary to sustain in this world. For example, peer pressure can motivate a student to study hard for his exams so he can score good marks. Hence, peer pressure can be positive or negative depending on the type of influence it has on you and how you react to it. These peer pressures can be categorized into four major types, which are listed below:

Direct peer pressure:

This is the most influencing type of peer pressure as it requires the immediate reaction of the person, so the probability of him behaving according to this peer pressure is more than any other type of peer pressure. For example, if a person is asked by his friends to stay at the party for some more hours because the others are also staying will make him agree even if he has to get home and finish work because going against the idea can bring a negative response from his friends.

Indirect peer pressure:

It is not an obvious influence, so it can be difficult to identify. It does not mostly influence our actions directly but targets our perspective and ideologies, which ultimately affects our actions. For example, when a person observes a certain behavior being considered popular among his classmates, he adopts the same behavior and even finds justifications to prove it right to attain validation from his classmates.

Spoken peer pressure:

When a person is persuaded by a person or a group of people to do something, then it is called spoken peer pressure. This persuasion takes place through verbal communication, so if this peer pressure takes place among a group of people, then the person is more likely to fall prey to the pressure and end up agreeing to it. At the same time, a single persuasion might not be very convincing as a person tends to rationalize a single person’s persuasion more as compared to group persuasion.

Unspoken peer pressure:

When the environment of an individual contains certain behaviors and norms that require to be adopted in order to fit in that society, there are no verbal persuasion or instructions involved, but the person still feels forced to do it because it is an appreciated act among the peer group. For instance, if a student finds people around him participating in a club, he will also feel peer pressure to participate without rationalizing this act.

Negative peer pressure:

If the actions conducted based on peer pressure result in negative outcomes that go against one’s moral codes and well-being, then it is called negative peer pressure. These trigger the impulsiveness of the person so that the long-term outcome of it gets blurred, and the person focuses on the present situation.

Young people fall easy prey to this type of peer pressure because they acquire acceptance in society and lack self-assurance. All the unhealthy and criminal activities are the result of this type of peer pressure.

Positive peer pressure:

This type of peer pressure works as a motivating force for people so that they can divert their efforts and focus on productive things. Positive peer pressure is encouraged to be escalated so that more people can benefit from it and work towards their positive goals. For instance, an individual starts working harder in his career as the peer group around him is also working and achieving professional objectives, so in order to be accepted among them, he needs to work at an equal pace.

Why do teenagers fall into peer pressure?

Teenagers rely on their friends and people of the same age group while they are growing up. Their personalities are still developing, and their bodies are undergoing hormonal changes, so they adopt the behaviors that they find attractive without looking at the bigger picture of it. They want to fit in society so that people can praise them and not get alienated from society.

Their peer group includes their batch mates, friends, neighbors, and cousins. A teenager’s behaviors and activities get molded under the peer pressure of these people. Positive peer pressure can indulge the teenager in constructive activities and lead toward optimism, while negative peer pressure can indulge him in destructive activities and lead toward pessimism.

Peer pressure influences every aspect of one’s life, including their way of dressing up, learning, going out, way of talking, and socializing. In their teen years, people often make choices depending on the trend and want to experiment with new things to explore themselves. This urge leads them to participate in harmful activities such as smoking, drugs, alcohol, and sex.

The risk of every teenager encountering such harmful activities is inevitable as they need to socialize in the world on their own, and it is not possible for the parents to monitor their teenage children all the time. Hence, the only thing that can restrain them from adopting harmful activities is strengthening their morals and values.

A person needs to recognize the subject of peer pressure so that through rationalization, he decides to restrain from which subject will harm and not fall prey to every peer pressure. He should be capable enough to oppose the negative persuasive force and incline towards positive peer pressure. This is called strong cognitive growth, which can be achieved through the influence and efforts of parents and guardians during their pre-teen years.

A child should be encouraged to socialize with the right people, but it must also be made sure that they know the balance between right and wrong so they can draw a line where the peer pressure demands them to move out of their personality and practice harmful activities to fit in a group or seek validation of a group of people.

Some of the negative effects that lead to harmful activities in a teenager’s life due to peer pressure are as follows:

Poor academic performance

If the peer group considers focusing on education for scoring good grades uncool, then a person will feel alienated from the group if he studies hard and scores well. His mindset will be controlled by the peer group, and they can tweak him to think that studying is boring, so he should rather shift his focus to socialization. Even if the person is capable of scoring good grades, he will still not make an effort so that nobody calls him a nerd.

For example, if the majority of the class has decided to skip a class, a person who wants to go against them will be under peer pressure because going against the peer group will alienate him from them.

Bullying others

Bullying is a common practice in colleges where a group of people surround an individual and try to dominate him. It can bring discomfort in the life of other people, so not everyone wants to be a part of it. However, if the peer group finds it right and practices it, then every individual tends to fall prey to this indirect peer pressure and eliminate his own rational thought of finding it wrong so that he can fit in the group.

Sexual activity

As children enter their teens, they go through hormonal changes and start to get familiar with the concept of intimacy. Teenagers in this period are impulsive, so they can be easily influenced by the people around them who are indulged in sexual activities or their partner who wants to initiate it. This can lead to unwanted situations such as unprotected intercourse and unintended pregnancy.

Substance abuse

Teenagers in their journey of experimenting and exploring new things, are attracted to smoking, alcohol, and drugs. When they see their friends indulging in such activities, they find it difficult to resist and try these things without looking at the bigger picture. Alcohol and drugs are prohibited for teenagers in most countries, so they find it adventurous to be rebellious and put pressure on their age mates to do the same.

The link between peer pressure and substance abuse

Every individual is under peer pressure in every stage of his life. This peer pressure can have a constructive or destructive influence on the person. For instance, positive peer pressure can prevent the person from drugs and alcohol to sustain a healthy lifestyle as it is considered a goal by his peer group. At the same time, negative peer pressure can persuade them towards drugs and alcohol as it is considered cool and adventurous among their peer group.

Teenagers and youngsters are more easily prey to peer pressure, and that is why they end up doing things that have harmful consequences. However, peer resistance depends on many other factors, including gender, age, ethnicity, and cognitive development of the person. For instance, according to a study conducted, women are found to be more resistant to peer influence compared to male.

Peer pressure is determined by the people in your surrounding or the people that you socialize with. In the pre-teen years, a person is surrounded by his family most of the time and follows the decisions made by his parents, but when he enters his teen years, he becomes independent in making choices. This includes all teenagers irrespective of their backgrounds, gender, and class, so the function of their cognitive ability comes into play as they make their independent decisions based on it. During his adolescence, his personal identity has not fully developed, so his surroundings can influence him easily.

The peer pressure to drag an individual towards drugs works in a subtle way where the consequences of it blur out. Below are some of the aspects that make it easier for teenagers to fall prey to drug use:

Sustain friendships:

A teenager is more willing to make friends and gain acceptance among his friends compared to adults, so to make people like them, he adopts activities that attract everybody’s attention. Moreover, when he sees his age mates talking about it and enjoying it, he becomes eager to try it, too, so that he does not feel left out among his friends and can relate to their conversations.

Low self-esteem:

Teenagers with low self-esteem are more likely to use drugs because they do not find themselves capable enough to make their own decisions and rely on others to lead them. They neither rationalize their behaviors nor question somebody else’s behavior and let other people lead them. As a result of which, they indulge in drugs and find it captivating because of the people around them.

Ignores the long-term consequences:

Many teenagers get attracted to drugs because they find them pleasing and thrilling. Their peer group convinces them that the drugs will make them happy by increasing the dopamine level of the brain. This unnatural dopamine cannot be obtained through any other means, so they crave it. They do not focus on the long-term consequences of it as they see the peer group enjoying its immediate effects.

Moreover, they observe their friends dealing with depression and loneliness through drugs as it replaces negative feelings with pleasant ones, so when they deal with similar conditions, they rely on drugs for escape.


Teenagers are more attracted to risky and adventurous things, so drugs being forbidden makes them attractive to them. They want to try new things with their friends, so they direct towards drugs and alcohol, which makes them look daring. Furtherly, it has become a cool thing among people, so all the youngsters want to try it too to be called daring by their friends. They want to impress people and fit in the group to build a strong personality. This struggle to build a strong personality leads them toward many toxic behaviors, including smoking, alcoholism, and drug abuse.

Unable to refuse:

One of the harmful traits among humans is their inability to say no because of the fear that it may sound odd and alienated. They know that a particular thing is not right but will do it because of the fear of rejection. This case is more prevalent in direct peer pressure, where an individual gets offered a drug, and he accepts it merely because everyone else is doing it, so refusing to do it will alienate him.

Lack of parental guidance:

Some teenagers are unaware of the harmful consequences of drugs. They see it being glamorized and commonly being used among their friends, so they find it captivating. They mostly get to know the effects of it later in life. It is the responsibility of the parents or guardian to educate the child about the consequences of harmful activities and how one should restrain from such activities.

They start drugs because of ignorance and then get stuck in the cycle due to addiction. Their mental and physical health depend on drugs. Hence, it becomes difficult for them to quit it.

How should a teenager deal with peer pressure?

One can not ignore the effect of peer pressure because every individual has to encounter it when he interacts with different people in the world. However, it is still possible to cope with such situations and peer pressures that can lead to harmful consequences. Some of the tips through which a teenager can resist negative peer pressure are as follows:

Say no to things you do not feel right:

Your inner instinct can guide you to deal with peers if you are true to your moral codes. If you do not feel right about an activity, try to refuse to do it and train your mind not to feel about it as it is your life and you should decide in your best interest.

Focus towards positive peer pressure:

Try to divert your focus towards positive peer pressure, and it is only possible if you surround yourself with a peer group that motivates you towards self-growth and healthier activities. This is the reason why people struggling to quit drugs are asked to participate in support groups so that they can all motivate each other towards a single goal.

Building self-assurance:

People with lower self-esteem are easy prey to drug abuse, so in order to resist it, one needs to be self-aware and informed about his abilities and goals. He does not need to depend on other people to make decisions for him. Hence, you need to be confident enough to rationalize the situation and choose the right for yourself. Self-assuring behavior will help you stay away from seeking validation from other people.

Seek help:

If you feel that peer pressure is overtaking your mental health and you are unable to resist it, then you should talk to your parents or guardians so that they can help you get out of such a situation. Seeking help is not a bad thing and can help you stay safe from several unwanted situations, so the best person to seek help is your parents as they are your well-wishers and much more mature than you.


When a child is growing up and becoming a teenager he experiences a transition in his life from immaturity to maturity so he starts making independent decisions. These decisions are affected by several factors including peer pressure. Peer pressure has several types and all of it attacks a teenager one way or the other.

However, negative results of it can indulge him into harmful activities such as drug abuse. Hence, it is important that a teenager is under positive guidance so that he grows up to contribute to society in a healthy way and not let any negative peer pressure interrupt his journey.


Nabeel Ahmad is the founder and editor-in-chief of Lone Mind. Apart from Lone Mind, he is a serial entrepreneur, and has founded multiple successful companies in different industries.

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