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Drugs & Health Blog

Why Does Peer Pressure Influence Teens To Try Drugs?

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Sara Bellum

During NIDA’s most recent Drug Facts Chat Day,“Kid” from Totino-Grace High School in Minnesota, asked: “Why is peer pressure such a huge factor in teens’ temptations [to experiment with] drugs and alcohol?”

Peer pressure and the brain

Peer pressure can influence teens' choices about a lot of things. New research shows that, when making a decision, teens think about both the risks and rewards of their actions and behaviors—but, unlike adults, teens are more likely to ignore the risk in favor of the reward.

In a NIDA-funded study, teens driving with their friends in the car were more likely to take risks—like speeding through yellow lights—if they knew that two or more of their friends were watching. Teens were also significantly more likely to act this way than adults in the same experiment.

Researchers monitored the brain activity of all the teen drivers in the study. Results showed that just knowing friends were watching activated brain regions linked with reward, especially when the teen drivers made risky decisions.

Taking control of your choices

So, be aware: The desire to impress your friends may override your fear of taking risks. This could also apply to deciding whether to try drugs or alcohol—your decision might be influenced by who’s around and if you think they’d be impressed.

Tell us: When you already know the risks, yet you want to impress your friends, do you run the light or slow down and stop? Do you accept a drink or turn it down? Do you go with the crowd or be your own person and impress others with your individuality? What are some ways you could put the brakes on long enough to think twice before making a decision to do something you know is risky?

Comments posted to the Drugs & Health Blog are from the general public and may contain inaccurate information. They do not represent the views of NIDA or any other federal government entity.


So, after falling prey to peer pressure and getting into weed, I'm beginning my journey towards recovery. I will be going to [commercial link removed, per guidelines] to get help for my addiction. If you are thinking of doing pot, I can only say don't start. My life has been totally wrecked by the drug, even though it was supposed to be "harmless". I'm a senior and I'm going to be able to graduate with my class because the rehab I'm going to offers classes, but this isn't the way I anticipated finishing high school...

good for you jason...i'm really glad you're over destroys lives and families....nice that you're on the road to recovery!!
yeah good for you
thank goodness
When i was in high school i NEVER done ANY recreational drugs. Period. No cannibis, cocaine, methamphetamine, or any drugs that will ruin your life. Not even smoking. I am aware of the Medical uses of cannabis, but still...
Marijuana is not addicting.....
yes it is additing
its all about mentality
I am in 6th grade learning about this in health class and teens do it to fit in a lot of kids at my school have juuls even my friends have them.Its all about wanting to be cool ,but really its not.
You can't even spell, dope head.
when you cant spell
Because it had no addictive properties or chemicals? Neither does alcohol, or sex, or gambling, etc. The most common misunderstanding is that people can only become addicted to properties within the vice being abused, but it's such a shallow and misinformed assumption. Addiction ultimately comes from the FEELINGS a vice gives a person, it's mental, not physical.
No, alcohol can be psychologically and physically addictive while marijuana is only psychologically addictive.
i agree
me 2
im a freshman i dont think you should ever smoke its bad for you either way i have never smoked and i never want to smoke or any type of drugs for that matter cause my family has never and never will smoke or do drugs either.
good for stay that way and never let someone peer pressure you into doin drugs you have 2 choices while being peer pressured 1 say 3 words that are fine I will or option 2 is say 1 simple word NO!! I hope you stay on the track your on now...I'm praying
Yes it is also it is bad and illegal
Lol urrr WRONG
Shut up noob
are you sure
YES IT IS ive been addicted since i was 4 years old
Same but I'm younger than you but still I hate my life now I fell prey to the pure pressure also and now I have smoked as a kid I was in the middle of all my parents fights and it really hurt and some other things happend but it personal so I was down in a dark place and hurt I tried it after pure pressure and I started and after a while I quit but still never start
i think you meant peer.
I think you meant pear.
well I am actually an 12 year girl and I want to ask a question what are 3 personal commitments related to peer pressure & being good drugs
Yay! sometimes you don't really know what you're doing or don't think about the consequences and you probably fell for it but its OK at least it didn't damage your life all the way I really hope the recovery is working out for you
thank very much
Weed rehab? you got to be kidding me. I mean i get it, it wasn't for you. I used to smoke a lot of pot myself but that didnt stop me from graduating. Even after smoking pot I still did good in school and graduated. If you simply wanted out you could easily not smoke anymore, weed isnt addictive and even I stopped after halfway to college because I didn't have the time to sit and smoke like I used to and after a while it isnt the same as it was. Maybe your like was a wreck because you let it happen. Dont blame the weed, blame yourself for not handling it and not quitting and like I said its not addictive you simply had th choice of not smoking anymore if you wanted it. This is really pathetic to blame a non addictive substance to your own failure.
I'm so happy to hear that you were on your way to recovery and finishing high school in may 2012. I'm just doing research right now, but hopefully you're recovered enough to not return here and ever even see this comment.

thats great Jason!! i hope you stay clean!! and im almost done with highschool and drugs messed up my life... i have been clean for 6 months!! if there is anyway u wanna talk to me more and get to know eachother let me know.. i love helping other people

good job jason have a good life

Jason, you're already on track by making this choice. Graduate and move on to better things that you will find for your life -drug free is the way!

And don't beat yourself up, we all learn lessons through our entire life, glad you're learning it right now!

its great that u saw your mistakes early enough to change.good luck with everything else.

So Great To Hear That Jason!

good job

Student 1- I dont think that the yellow light is a good analogy for taking risks because its not as dangerous nor is it illegal.

Student 2- The yellow light is a good comparison because some people do actually "fall for it" and choose to take the drugs rather than stopping at a red light and saying no.

Student 3 - Evaluate your risk before you choose.

im so glad that your making the right choice and giving up weed it is a serious drug and dont beat yourself up about it its ok that you caught yourself early before it became a problem with the law good job jason

I'm just starting high school, and already i can see that a lot of my former friends have fallen victim to drugs, smoking and sex. It makes me so sad to see all of them ruining their lives like that, and
I just want to help them but i don't know how. So I've been looking into why they got into it. And i believe this article has helped me better understand why, and how to make sure my current friends don't make the same mistake. So thank you author :)

durgs r bad fr u [name removed, per guidelines]
It's amazing how we so easily state that only youth ignore risks in lieu of rewards. Corruption in government, business and life all stems from ignoring risks in lieu of rewards. And adults do this so much better than our children and youth. Had it occurred to anyone that our children and youth learn from adults? The continuing to allow tobacco, alcohol and other drugs to be accessible to our youth is an adult's risk taking in hopes of increased and continued profit. Inadequate enforcement of youth access laws that allow youth to purchase substances they should not have access to is also and adult's risk taking. We know the outcomes and we know the causes of these outcomes. When will be take on the courage to admit that our risk taking (if that's what we're calling it), has a much greater impact on our youth than peer pressure ever will.
one time i ate a frog ..
Oh geez man are u for real
omg me too, worst experience of my life :( I was high on life at the time and I thought it was a malteaser. never again.
I would honestly say not to do drugs don't start it don't get into it, it messed my life up with my friendships and everything else. now watching all of my old friends run around getting drunk and smoking just makes me upset that I wouldnt want anyone else in that position.
this is awesome info guys and girls