By Addyson Porter, Logan High School
West Virginia has the highest drug usage out of every state in the United States of America, according to a recent study by WalletHub. These illegal habits often begin before citizens even earn their high school diploma.
In many, if not every, public high school in West Virginia, there are many students who engage in regular drug usage. Some of these students also attempt to peer pressure other students into trying these addictive drugs. The effects of this peer pressure can be detrimental to students who would otherwise remain drug free. What forms of peer pressure are used to persuade teenagers to turn to drugs?
Teenagers are exposed to heavy drug usage in the media. Many celebrities often glorify drugs, especially marijuana, publicly. Movies and television have also been known to portray drug usage, and it is often shown in a way that makes the drugs seem fun and exciting, especially to young minds.
Many teenagers are also under the impression that using drugs will result in an enjoyable experience. While this may be partially true, the harm and risks outweigh any potential benefits. False promises of fun, stress relief, and any other benefit of drug use could be used to convince a teen to try drugs.
Teens are more likely to turn to drugs in areas with heavy drug usage among the other citizens. When everyone around them is doing it, teenagers are more likely to fall into the same habits. If a teen sees everyone else in their family, school or town doing drugs, there is seemingly no reason for him or her to abstain.
In most public high schools, it is easy to either get drugs or find someone who knows how. Since it is so easy, a teenager could be compelled to give these drugs a try. This “try” could easily end in addiction.
It is evident that many forms of peer pressure are used against teenagers every day. While some approaches are more effective than others, each approach plays a significant role in teenagers across the nation turning to drugs at a very young age. When implemented subliminally at a very young age and all throughout the life of a teenager, pro-drug propaganda can be shockingly effective.
Constantly being subjected to this level of peer pressure can be hard on a teen. It can take a toll on one’s mental state, especially if it takes place for a particularly elongated period of time. How does being peer pressured to try using illegal drugs impact the mind and wellbeing of a teenager?
Fear of missing out (FOMO)
When most drugs are portrayed as fun and exciting, a teenager who chooses to stay drug free could feel like they are missing out. This could add even more unnecessary fear and stress to the life of a teen. Excessive stress alone can harm a teenager, but this is especially true when drugs are involved.
Any teenager would become curious when drugs are constantly being advertised, discussed and preached against. This curiosity could lead to that teen deciding to try drugs, just to see what will happen. This then creates a snowball effect, and that teenager quickly falls into an addiction that they never planned for.
The need to “fit in”
If “fitting in” with peers is important to a teenager, and all of their peers are using drugs, that teen is likely to fall down that path in their own life. The peers and friends of teenagers is important. Hanging out with a crowd that negatively influences you may have detrimental and life-changing consequences.
Being constantly peer pressured to try drugs could cause a teenager to think something along the lines of, “Well, one time can’t hurt….” This way of thinking will then lead that teen to using drugs again and again, until suddenly they realize that they have accidentally developed an addiction.
Just as a teen could be peer pressured into trying drugs, they could also accidentally overdose. If their friends, who are regular users, are using large amounts of a drug, a teenager who has never used this drug before could overdose while trying to keep up with their friend. According to the aforementioned study by WalletHub, overdoses caused over 100,000 deaths in America in the past year.
In conclusion, peer pressure could easily have a very negative impact on both the mental state and actions of teenagers. There are many ways that teens may be peer pressured, and some are more obvious than others. If a teen is being peer pressured into trying drugs, this does not mean that they have to give in. A simple solution would be to say, “No,” or to find new people to hang out with if this fails.
Drugs are not worth all of the risks that come along with the high. There are far more benefits to staying drug-free as a teenager. While peer pressure can be compelling, stay strong. Stay drug free. You will not regret it.
This piece was written for FlipSide, the Charleston Gazette-Mail’s teen publication. You can read more stories written by teens for teens atwvflipside.com.