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Alcohol & Drug Avoidance Strategies for Teens

posted Oct 6, 2018, 3:56 AM by Neville Misquitta   [ updated Oct 6, 2018, 4:00 AM ]

Shambhavi Deval: MPhil Clinical Psychology

If you have made up your mind not to use drugs and alcohol, it can be hard to say no when your friends are the ones offering it to you. Many times a simple “no, thanks” is not enough. Your refusal makes your friends feel uncomfortable and judged. They may retaliate by making fun of you, bullying you or leaving you out of the group. If you go along with them, they feel less self-conscious and relieved of any responsibility.

Why do Teens Say Yes to Alcohol?

  • They want to be liked.
  • They want to fit in and avoid feeling like an outsider.
  • They want to avoid ridicule.They want to be rebellious.
  • They are interested in trying something new.
  • They are trying to escape the pressures of school or work.
Being part of a group - to be accepted and to belong - is extremely important for children and adolescents. The need for approval by the peer group often triggers an emotional reaction, which in turn makes them more likely to succumb to peer pressure. This is an important factor in teen drinking or drug abuse. Teens are more likely to fall victim to peer pressure if they already feel sad, anxious or guilty; disappointed in themselves, or feel excluded and ‘uncool’.

Why are Adolescents Susceptible to Peer Pressure?

Peer pressure is generally linked to adolescence. However, adults can also be influenced, especially when alcohol is involved. According to a study published by the U.S National Library of Medicine, teens are most influenced by peers. Though teens weigh the risks and rewards of an activity just as adults do, they are more likely to ignore the risks when peers are around. Studies also suggest that the “adolescent brain is more responsive and excitable to rewards as compared to those of adults and young children”. This attracts them to risky behaviors, including alcohol consumption, drugs and also makes them vulnerable to peer influence. It also makes youth more susceptible to the effects of alcohol and drugs. Adults, like teens, worry about what others think of them. They want to fit in and avoid awkwardness. Consequently, they are pressured to drink, either directly or indirectly.

Alcohol Avoidance Strategies

Here are few strategies which might be useful in withstanding peer pressure in everyday life.
  1. Learn to be assertive. Choose your own communication style, and say “no” politely without antagonizing your friends or making them feel judged.
  2. Keep a bottled drink like iced tea or lemonade with you. People are less likely to pressure you to drink alcohol if they see you have a drink already.
  3. Offer to be designated driver. Get your friends home safely.
  4. Cite early morning sports practice, visiting grandparents or tuitions.
  5. Suggest something else “I have got a new video game, why don’t we play that instead?
  6. Joke about it. Humour is a great way to change the topic and the mood. It can take the attention away from you.
  7. Say no and give a practical reason why you know it’s a bad idea. Maybe you know someone who is an alcoholic and how drinking has messed up his/her life.
  8. You can say you are on medication and you are not allowed to drink.
  9. Leave. If you are bullied or feel uncomfortable walk away. You may be surprised to see that some of your friends will stand up for you and leave with you. Remember you always have the power to walk away.
“You will never influence the world by trying to be like it”.