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How Can Teens Navigate Peer Pressure to Use Drugs?

Unfortunately, peer pressure is a common motivator for teen drug use. In many instances, teens give in to peer pressure because they want to fit in and be liked. If teens think activities such as drinking alcohol or doing drugs will earn them those rewards, they may be likely to succumb to that pressure.

Why Are Teens Likely to Engage in Risky Behavior?

Adults are susceptible to peer pressure, of course, but it’s not a uniquely teenage phenomenon. But teens are quite liable to peer pressure due to the incomplete formation of their brains, particularly the frontal lobe. This is the part of the brain that is responsible for appropriate judgment and decision-making. The understanding of “risk versus reward” is not yet established during the teenage years. Due to their young age and undeveloped frontal lobe, teens don’t often grasp the long-term consequences of their actions in the present. Some actions, such as drug use, can have long-reaching effects in their adulthood.

Risk Factors of Teen Substance Use

The risk factors of teen drug use don’t necessarily mean that if these circumstances are present, teens are guaranteed to abuse drugs. However, research shows that certain genetic and environmental factors tend to be present among teens with substance use disorder. These risk factors include, but are not limited to:

  • Lack of parental supervision
  • Lack of discipline
  • Family history of substance abuse
  • Family history of mental health problems
  • Family rejection
  • Low academic achievement
  • Associating with delinquent or substance-using peers
  • Parent divorce
  • Emotional instability

In addition, social media can greatly influence teens when it comes to drug use. When teens see this behavior glamorized through media, they are more likely to engage in the behavior themselves.

If your teen is using drugs, early intervention is critical for successful treatment. While drug use in the teen years can follow them into adulthood, it is possible to achieve sobriety. Treatment is also beneficial in helping teens develop healthier coping skills.

Warning Signs Of Teen Substance Use

While some signs of your teen’s drug use may be more obvious, other signs are more discrete. This can also depend on the type of drug being used. It can be challenging for parents to determine legitimate signs of drug use from the normal parts of the adolescent experience, such as chronic fatigue or demanding privacy. However, it’s worth knowing the common warning signs of drug use, which include:

  • Sudden changes in mood
  • Academic problems
  • Chronic isolation
  • Sudden changes in friend groups
  • Engaging in risk-taking behaviors
  • A “nothing matters” attitude
  • Physical or mental changes

How Can Parents Help Their Teens Navigate Peer Pressure?

There are many ways that parents can be proactive in protecting their teens from drug use and abuse. These are just a few of them, but you can get creative depending on the unique personality of your teen and the dynamic of your relationship:

Be A Positive Role Model

Teens are greatly influenced by people around them, not just their friends. When they see healthy behaviors modeled by people they admire, such as sports coaches, family members, or perhaps religious clergy, they are more likely to develop their own healthy behaviors.

Help Foster Confidence

Teen years are a time of frustration and insecurity. This is a natural occurrence as their bodies and hormones are constantly changing, and social situations are also in flux. Teens who have low self-esteem are more likely to make risky decisions in order to fit in with certain friend groups. As a parent, you can help foster confidence by pointing out your teen’s strengths and other attributes. You can also help them develop goals based on these strengths and foster healthy ways of handling criticism.

Visualize Certain Scenarios

It may sound silly, but it’s effective. You can act out certain scenarios with your teen, perhaps based on TV shows or other media they consume in which characters are pressured to use drugs. Ask your teen how they might respond in a similar scenario. This can help prepare them for a real-life scenario they might face with their peers.

Practice Active Listening

Your teen may be more likely to ask you for advice if they are struggling with peer pressure when you practice good listening skills. As desperate as you might be to ask questions or offer advice, you might want to allow your teen to share as much as possible before you intervene. Oftentimes, offering them the opportunity to talk out their problems can help them come to their own solutions, which becomes a valuable independence skill. Try to withhold judgment or punishment if your teen is vulnerable with you, as sharing their feelings is an act of vulnerability and strength. Let your teen know that!

It can be terrifying to suspect that your teen is thinking of using drugs. The pressure to fit in with friends, even at the expense of their health, is quite real. As a parent, you can help prevent teen drug use by keeping lines of communication open. Create a safe space for your teen to share what they are thinking or feeling without judgment or shame. Let them know that if they find themselves in a potentially dangerous situation, they can always call you for help. If you think your teen is using substances, early intervention is key. Clearfork Academy has helped many teens fight drug abuse and addiction by teaching them healthy coping mechanisms to replace harmful substance-seeking habits. We offer residential programs for teen boys and girls, detox programs, group therapy, and even outdoor activities to promote healing. Contact Clearfork Academy today at (817) 259-2597.

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