More on Peer Pressure and Drug Abuse

teens taking pillsI recently wrote a post about the way many people first start using drugs. I noted in that post that sometimes peer pressure consists of someone telling you, “Everyone’s doing it,” and sometimes it’s far more subtle than that.

I gathered this impression from interviews with graduates of our drug rehab program. And now it looks like this impression is spot on.

According to a new study from the National Institute on Drug Abuse, peer pressure can really just take these subtle forms:
• Peer drug associations
• Peers as points of drug access
• The motivation to misuse prescription drugs to have pleasant times with friends.

Although the last statement might better read: the motivation to misuse prescription drugs to have “pleasant” times with friends. When you find yourself desperately craving the drug after your body has gotten used to its presence, or when you find yourself in trouble because of the risky choices you made while intoxicated, those times might not look so pleasant.

Also, this could easily apply to all drugs, not just prescription drugs. These researchers were focusing on prescription drugs but perhaps they could have included alcohol, marijuana and other drugs. These drugs are just as susceptible to peer pressure as pills.

The news report on this study said: “Although these young adults may not feel pressured by their peers, having the drugs available, and seeing peers having a good time without any obvious adverse effects surely makes them feel like the drugs are safer to use.”

Feeling that these drugs are safe to abuse shows that young people completely miss the danger of pill abuse. Opiates can cause a person to stop breathing and are quick to addict. When you add alcohol or benzodiazepines like Xanax of Valium to the mix, the danger of death is even greater. But as this news report also makes clear, people with this mistaken idea are at serious risk of death every time they abuse prescription drugs. In fact, 100 people a day die from prescription drug overdoses.

Of course, this idea that drug abuse is safe also applies to marijuana. Since it is being dispensed for “medical” use in so many states, and legal in others, who can blame young people for thinking that it’s harmless? Especially when those lobbying for the approval downplay the drug’s dangerous effects and addictiveness.

There can be many arguments for refraining from drug abuse – for example, one could be more productive, more perceptive, feel more of the joy of life. But sometimes, it just comes down to staying alive. One’s best chance of being alive means staying away from drugs that could kill one or lead one to make risky decisions that kill one.