Term Paper: Peer Pressure on Alcohol and Drug Use

Pages: 6 (1511 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 1+  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Sports - Drugs  ·  Buy for $19.77

¶ … Peer Pressure on Alcohol and Drug Use (1485 words+refs)

As children move into early adolescence, involvement with peers and the attraction of peer identification increases. As pre-adolescents begin rapid physical, emotional and social changes, they begin to question adult standards and the need for parental guidance. They find it reassuring to turn for advice to friends who understand and sympathize. The idea that someone, or something, may lure children into learning dangerous and destructive behavior by discarding parental behaviors and values often scares adults. However, peer pressure can be positive. The peer group is a source of affection, sympathy and understanding; a place for experimentation; and a supportive setting for achieving primary developmental tasks of adolescence (Robin and Johnson 75).

At adolescence, peer relations expand to occupy a central role in young people's lives. New types and levels of peer relationships often emerge. Peers typically replace the family as the center of a young person's socializing and leisure activities. Teenagers have multiple peer relationships, and they confront multiple peer cultures that have remarkably different norms and value systems. The adult perception of peers as having one culture or a unified front of dangerous influence is inaccurate. More often than not, peers reinforce family values, but they have the potential to encourage problem behaviors as well. Although the negative peer influence is overemphasized, more can be done to help teenagers experience the family and the peer group as mutually constructive environments.

If the negative effect of Peer Pressure is to be minimized, youth, parents, school and community leaders must come together to establish workable and effective strategies to guide teen behavior and to support their transition from children to mature, responsible adults. A strategy to consider is to relinquish the stereotype of peers as a uniformly negative influence on youth. Although some teenage peer groups encourage drug use, delinquent activities and poor school performance, others discourage deviant activity in favor of school achievement and involvement in sports or other extra-curricular activities.

By the time they reach the eighth grade, nearly 50% of adolescents have had at least one drink, and over 20% report having been "drunk." Approximately 20% of 8th graders and almost 50% of 12th graders have consumed alcohol within the past 30 days. Among 12th graders, almost 30% report drinking on 3 or more occasions per month. Approximately 30% of 12th graders engage in heavy episodic drinking, now popularly termed "binge" drinking -- that is, having at least five or more drinks on one occasion within the past 2 weeks -- and it is estimated that 20% do so on more than one occasion (Makela 732).

Apart from being illegal, underage drinking poses a high risk to both the individual and society. For example, the rate of alcohol-related traffic crashes is greater for drivers ages 16 to 20 than for drivers age 21 and older. Adolescents also are vulnerable to alcohol-induced brain damage, which could contribute to poor performance at school or work. In addition, youthful drinking is associated with an increased likelihood of developing alcohol abuse or dependence later in life. Early intervention is essential to prevent the development of serious alcohol problems among youth between the ages of 12 and 20.

Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death among youth ages 15 to 20. Adolescents already are at increased risk through their relative lack of driving experience, and drivers younger than 21 are more susceptible than older drivers to the alcohol-induced impairment of driving skills. The rate of fatal crashes among alcohol-involved drivers between 16 and 20 years old is more than twice the rate for alcohol-involved drivers 21 and older. Alcohol use interacts with conditions such as depression and stress to contribute to suicide, the third leading cause of death among people between the ages of 14 and 25.

Sexual assault, including rape, occurs most commonly among women in late adolescence and early adulthood, usually within the context of a date. Approximately 10% of female high school students reported having been raped. Research suggests that alcohol use by the offender, the victim, or both, increases the likelihood of sexual assault by a male acquaintance.

Research has associated adolescent alcohol use with high-risk sex. The consequences of high-risk sex also are common in this age group, particularly unwanted pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV / AIDS. The link between high-risk sex and drinking is affected by the quantity of alcohol consumed. The probability of sexual intercourse is increased by drinking amounts of alcohol sufficient to impair judgment, but decreased by drinking heavier amounts that result in feelings of nausea, passing out, or mental confusion.

During adolescence, significant changes occur in the body, including rapid hormonal alterations and the formation of new networks in the brain. Adolescence is also a time of trying new experiences and activities that emphasize socializing with peers, and conforming to peer-group standards. These new activities may place young people at particular risk for initiating and continuing alcohol consumption. Exposing the brain to alcohol during this period may interrupt key processes of brain development, possibly leading to mild cognitive impairment as well as to further escalation of drinking.

Subtle alcohol-induced adolescent learning impairments could affect academic and occupational achievement. Alcohol-dependent youth have greater difficulty remembering words and simple geometric designs after a 10-minute interval. Furthermore, memory problems are most common among adolescents in treatment who have experienced alcohol withdrawal symptoms. The emergence of withdrawal symptoms generally indicates an established pattern of heavy drinking. Their appearance at a young age underscores the need for early intervention to prevent and treat underage drinking.

Although the prevalence of high-risk drinking declines after early adulthood, alcohol-induced brain damage may persist (Arata, Stafford and Tims 578). Memory impairment has been found in adult rats exposed to alcohol during adolescence. In addition, sophisticated imaging techniques revealed structural differences in the brains of 17-year-old adolescents who displayed alcohol-induced intellectual and behavioral impairment. Specifically, the hippocampus, a part of the brain important for learning and memory, was smaller in alcohol-dependent study participants than it was in nondependent participants. Adolescents who began drinking at an earlier age had proportionately smaller hippocampal volumes compared with those who began later, suggesting that the differences in size were alcohol induced.

The immediate and long-term risks associated with adolescent alcohol use underscore the need for effective prevention and treatment programs. Research on the personal, social, and environmental factors that contribute to the initiation and escalation of drinking is essential for the development of such programs. It should be noted that preventing and identifying alcohol use disorders in youth require different screening, assessment, and treatment approaches than those used for adults. For example, although relapse rates following alcoholism treatment are similar for both adults and adolescents, social factors such as peer pressure play a much larger role in relapse among adolescents.

Personal factors such as childhood behavior problems or a family history of alcohol use disorders can help to identify high-risk youth and may suggest direction for interventions. Evidence suggests that the most reliable predictor of a youth's drinking behavior is the drinking behavior of his or her friends (Borsari and Carey 405). Many research-based interventions target the child's relevant behavioral skills, such as his or her ability to react appropriately to peer pressure to drink, as well as his or her knowledge, attitudes, and intentions regarding alcohol use. Positive beliefs about alcohol's effects and the social acceptability of drinking encourage the adolescent to begin and continue drinking. However, youth often overestimate how much their peers drink and how positive their peers' attitudes are toward drinking. Consequently, most prevention programs include social norms education, which uses survey data to counter students' misperceptions of their peers' drinking practices and attitudes about alcohol.

Family factors, such as parent-child relationships, discipline methods, communication, monitoring and supervision,… [END OF PREVIEW]

Drug Use and Addiction Term Paper


Issues of Drug and Alcohol Abuse Term Paper


Peer Pressure and American Teens Term Paper


Social Problem Drug Abuse Research Paper


Alcohol Consumption and Symptoms Literature Review Chapter


View 335 other related papers  >>

Cite This Term Paper:

APA Format

Peer Pressure on Alcohol and Drug Use.  (2005, March 1).  Retrieved November 19, 2019, from https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/peer-pressure-alcohol-drug-use/709115

MLA Format

"Peer Pressure on Alcohol and Drug Use."  1 March 2005.  Web.  19 November 2019. <https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/peer-pressure-alcohol-drug-use/709115>.

Chicago Format

"Peer Pressure on Alcohol and Drug Use."  Essaytown.com.  March 1, 2005.  Accessed November 19, 2019.
https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/peer-pressure-alcohol-drug-use/709115.