This post was written by Ben Cypressi, a CSUCI student.
Peer pressure in school is a very widespread issue affecting young people, myself included. Going to school every day throughout my life, I was able to see just how widespread it was and still is today. The biggest issue was the use of drugs.
I have memories back in middle and high school of drugs being discussed. This was somewhat intimidating for me because growing up, my family never talked about that kind of stuff and I had never seen drug use before. I was always told to steer clear of drugs from school prevention programs, but had never had any tangible, real life experience with them. Same goes with alcohol. I would hear horror stories from my parents, who worked in the medical field, of patients they would take in that had an endless list of medical issues as a result of drug and alcohol addiction. It is definitely safe to say that hearing all of this from an early age steered me straight.
Back to middle and high school, where I was hearing kids talk about where they could get drugs, and even had some of my friends trying drugs. I didn’t know how to approach the situation at first, because I really had no interest and was more timid than anything else. I knew it wasn’t really my place to tell them to stop, but I recommended that they did, and explained the adverse effects drugs could have on them. What I said had little to no effect on them, and they even offered me drugs which was disappointing and a little scary to me. I decided that whenever I felt uncomfortable in these situations, it was okay to just leave. There is no shame in leaving a situation because you feel uncomfortable or unsafe. Leaving, in my opinion, was the perfect solution because if you aren’t around drugs or alcohol, you are much better off and have zero chance of being peer pressured into doing something you do not want to do.
The most important part of avoiding peer pressure is standing your ground. You need to stand for what you believe in and uphold the values you were raised with. For me that was easier said than done, as leaving or saying no was not the “cool” thing to do. I knew though, that if I ever gave in that I could potentially go down a road that I might not be able to get out of. All it takes for someone to potentially become addicted to drugs or alcohol is trying it one time. It is impossible to say how you will react or the path you will take if you just try it one time. I also knew that I had to be a role model for my younger sister; it is important to do so if you have younger siblings. If they see their older brother or sister doing drugs or drinking alcohol illegally, they will be more inclined to do so later in their lives when they reach that age.
Tips for standing your ground include being firm when you say no, but being polite at the same time. These could be your friends that are pressuring you to do certain things that make you uncomfortable, and it is important to find that line between not being blatantly disrespectful while still holding your own. Suggesting other activities, much healthier ones, really worked well for me too. I would often suggest that instead of going out and partying, that we would go see a movie or go to a restaurant and then go get ice cream. During the day I would see if my friends wanted to go hiking, go to the pool to go for a swim, or any other activities that did not involve drug or alcohol use. This worked best in my opinion, because we were still enjoying each other’s company and doing it safely.
More difficult situations may arise that might make you feel bad about saying no to your friends. When it was me and what I was experiencing, I knew I had to draw a line somewhere and I made a quick distinction between the friends that I wanted to keep and the ones I knew I no longer should associate with. If I had friends that were persistent and kept offering me drugs and alcohol when I had already said no to them, I knew that I had to distance myself from them. These were extremely difficult situations to deal with and horrible decisions to make, because like everyone else I just wanted to fit in. Now looking back, I without a doubt made the right decisions to distance myself from those bad influences. Over time that happens naturally, and it is important to realize that it’s just a normal part of going through life.
To wrap up, you have to take pride in who you are and the values that you have. Do not let anyone steer you into situations that make you feel uncomfortable and unsafe. Be firm but polite when you are standing your ground and saying no to drugs and alcohol.