NIDA for Teens: The Science Behind Drug Abuse
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Why Does Peer Pressure Influence Teens To Try Drugs?

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?”

Risk Versus Reward

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. Results showed that just knowing friends were watching activated brain regions linked with reward, especially when the teen drivers made risky decisions.

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 is 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?


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...

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

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 :)

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