Peer Pressure Drinking

Peer pressure is one of the most common reasons that teens begin drinking. Read this article to learn more about peer pressure and teen alcohol use. Keep reading for tips on how to handle peer pressure drinking and resist peer pressure in different situations.

Peer pressure occurs when teens feel like they need to do something to be accepted by their peers. During the adolescent and teen years, acceptance by peers is an important part of the way young people understand themselves and their identity. Peer pressure can be positive, such as when a teen wants to do well in school or sports because their friends are doing those things too, but peer pressure can have serious negative consequences when teens are pressured by their peers to do harmful things, like drinking alcohol.

Peer pressure can take many forms. Some types of peer pressure are direct and verbal, when a teen's peers tell them they should do something like try alcohol. Some examples of this type of peer pressure include sayings like:

  • Here, try this. What, are you afraid?
  • Don't you want to have fun?
  • Don't be a loser.
  • It won't hurt you.
  • You're not going to get caught. No one will know.
  • Who cares if you get in trouble?
  • If you don't want to drink, we don't want you to hang out with us.
  • People will like you better if you drink.
  • Don't act like a baby.

Peer pressure drinking can also involve teens being excluded from a group because they won't drink or do other things the group does. Teens may feel like if they give into peer pressure drinking they will fit in with the group or be accepted. If the group is singling them out for teasing, it may increase the pressure to drink to fit in.

Sometimes peer pressure comes from what a teen imagines other teens are doing. Examples of this are TV shows, movies, and advertisements that make teens think that their peers drink more than they actually do. A teen may feel pressured to drink to be more like the teens he or she sees in the media, even if those teens aren't real and don't represent what real teens are doing. Teens often think the media reflects reality, though it does not.

Resisting Peer Pressure Drinking

One way to combat peer pressure drinking is to educate teens. Some facts that may help teens include:

  • The number of teens who actually use alcohol is declining, according to the 2008 National Survey on Drug use and Health. In 2008, about 1 in 4 teens was an alcohol user, and 1 in 20 were heavy drinkers. These numbers are even lower for younger teens and adolescents.
  • Peer pressure drinking won't solve your problems, and may cause a lot of new ones, like getting in trouble at school or home, hurting yourself or someone else, losing your driver's license, having unprotected sex and getting an STD or an unwanted pregnancy, or embarrassing yourself by acting stupid while drunk.
  • People who try to make others do things like use alcohol are not real friends. Those kinds of people are often very insecure and want to manipulate other people so they feel better about themselves. They are also very self-centered. Teens can find real friends who share their values and standards and won't pressure them to do something they don't want to do.

Teens need to learn to recognize peer pressure and avoid making decision based on what other people do, say, or think. This is an important part of growing up. If teens allow other people to make their decisions for them, they will find themselves doing a lot of things they don't want to do, like doing something illegal and getting in trouble, performing poorly in school and missing out on opportunities, or having sex before they're ready.

Teens and parents can also do other things to help teens resist negative peer pressure:

  • Teens should make goals about what they want to do with their lives and evaluate decisions based on if those decisions will help them meet their goals.
  • Get the facts on underage drinking- it’s dangerous, and not as many teens do it as some teens think.
  • Learn to recognize peer pressure and practice saying no to negative peer pressure.
  • Learn to think about false statements like, "No one will like you if you don't drink," or "Drinking will make you popular." Teens can probably think of people who like them even if they don't drink, and teens can probably also think of people who do drink alcohol but are not popular.
  • Have excuses not to drink, like, "My parents will be waiting for me to get home and they will smell the alcohol", "I don't like alcohol", or "I know someone who died from alcohol and I don't want that to happen to me."
  • Teens who feel love and support from other sources, like positive friends and family members, are less likely to give in to peer pressure to drink.
  • Teens do care about what their parents think, and if parents talk to their kids early about the dangers of drinking and have clear rules and consequences about teens not using alcohol, it can help teens say no to alcohol.
  • Teens should have someone they can call if they are in a bad situation, and may want to consider having a code word that means, "Please come get me."

Standing up to peer pressure drinking is hard, but it will make you feel better about yourself in the long run, and will give you the self confidence and freedom to make other decisions about what you want out of your life.


U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, The Cool Spot, "Peer Pressure" [online]

PBS Kids Go!, It's My Life, "Alcohol: Peer Pressure" [online]

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration Office of Applied Studies, "Results from the 2008 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: National Findings" [online]

Related Article: Alcohol Abuse Prevention >>