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Peer pressure – the shaping of social identity

This blog allows us to share information about drug and alcohol abuse, as well as drug and alcohol abuse rehabilitation and about our drug and alcohol recovery centre.

There are many reasons why individuals begin taking drugs, and it isn’t uncommon for them to feel alone in their reasons and feelings of anguish.

However, there are common factors that play a role in all abusive behaviour.

Situations involving peer pressure appear constantly throughout our lives, making it unlikely to go unscathed or uncorrupted by its effects.

Because we are social beings and rely quite heavily on social acceptance, this longing for acceptance from our peers and potential new friends ensures that conforming to the normative behaviour of the group becomes the mechanism through which belonging and group entry is gained or denied.

Social acceptance and peer pressure are powerful forces in the world of drug and alcohol abuse as we derive our identity in part from our belonging and acceptance in and to social groups.

These pressures increase even more when you bring in the need to impress the opposite sex, class-mates, and friends.

Refusal to these mechanisms may result in isolation and lack of identity as such.

Almost all adolescent drug users are introduced to alcohol, drugs and consuming these substances by their friends and peer pressure is the most common reason for first time alcohol or drug use.

Being part of a social group that participates in drug or alcohol use often leads to individuals who are striving for this acceptance having to join the group’s activities in order to achieve social acceptance and acknowledgement.

As the use of the substance increases and the addiction progress advances, the amount of interactions with non-addicted individuals decreases.

Friends and family eventually separate themselves from the addict as the addiction worsens; the addiction begins to demand more and more of the addict's time and eventually their entire social circle becomes individuals with substance abuse problems.

It is extremely difficult to free yourself from an addiction without having to remove all of the friends that trigger substance abuse.

The mechanics of counter culture and the role that rebellion are the driving forces behind behaviours done in order to impress or seek to impress other group members.

In addition people who learn negatives forms of acting out during childhood such as looking for attention, being disobedient, negative competition, defying authority, or withdrawing from friends and family, find social circles who participate in drug and alcohol abuse comforting and accepting.

It is for this reason that any drug recovery therapy must address the abusive behaviour with the holistic approach and also help the individual to find new ways of dealing with the stressors that lead to their abusive behaviour.

It is debatable whether the influence of peer pressure reduces as we get older, because it still has a large impact on our behavior and what trends we appreciate and what we choose to take part in.

It’s understandable how tempting it is to have a drink at a party because everyone else is, or to feel pressurised when friends want to do drugs around you and offer you a try.

Most choices in our lives are depicted by social norms and trends, so giving in to pressure to try new things or follow new trends makes us only human.

It’s important to understand and be aware of your ability to say no and to feel secure in your answer.

This is far more valuable than popularity and being accepted.

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