Peer Pressure and Alcohol (2022)

Medical Reviewer: Ashraf Ali, MD | Author: Matt Gonzales | Last Updated: 2/28/20 | 15 sources

Peer pressure is the influence you feel from others to do something you otherwise would not. A peer could be a friend, co-worker, classmate, acquaintance or anyone you admire.

Peer pressure may occur directly or indirectly. Direct pressure involves peers explicitly asking you to do something. Indirect pressure happens when you witness others engaging in an activity and are motivated to do the same.

Peer Pressure Can Lead to Alcohol Use

It could occur in a workplace, school or via social media. Social media and alcohol use have become intertwined over the years. A report by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University found 75 percent of surveyed teens feel encouraged to drink after seeing photographs of peers partying on social media.

Peer pressure can be positive or negative. Positive peer pressure could motivate individuals to exercise, display integrity and avoid drugs or alcohol.

  • Consuming drugs or alcohol
  • Stealing
  • Cheating
  • Gossiping
  • Other risky behaviors

Peer pressure can lead to alcohol abuse. It helps diminish a gene that prevents people from developing alcohol problems, per a study published in Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research. Saying no can protect individuals from a host of consequences.

Who Is Affected by Peer Pressure?

Peer pressure is generally linked to adolescence. However, adults can also be influenced, especially when alcohol is involved.

Teens and Adults

Teens are most influenced by their peers. Though teens weigh the risks and rewards of an activity just as adults do, teens are more likely to ignore the risk for the reward when their peers are present, according to a study published by the U.S. National Library of Medicine.

Peer Pressure and Alcohol (1)

This is partly because of brain structure. The systems of the brain that respond to reward are easily aroused during adolescence. This attracts teens to risky behaviors, including alcohol consumption, and makes them particularly vulnerable to peer influence.

Additionally, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, teens tend to overestimate how much their friends drink.

Adults, like teens, worry about what others think of them. They want to fit in and avoid awkwardness. Consequently, they are pressured to drink, either directly or indirectly, at company-sponsored functions or social situations where alcohol is present.

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Single-Parent Households and Blended Families

Children from single-parent households or blended families are especially vulnerable, according to a University of Wisconsin study.

The report, which evaluated nearly 7,000 children aged 12 to 17, found that children who grew up in a household with both natural parents were less susceptible to pressure from friends. Children raised by a natural parent and a stepparent were just as likely to give in to peer pressure as those in single-parent homes.

Brett Laursen, a professor of psychology at Florida Atlantic University, says children with few friends are likely to be swayed by peer pressure. He says boys generally want to impress groups while girls aim to impress particular individuals.

How to Avoid Peer Pressure

People should never be pressured to drink alcohol against their own wishes and judgment. Giving in to temptation can be dangerous for teens and adults. Knowing how to turn down a drink is invaluable.

Ways to Say No

  • Simply say “no thank you.”
  • Change the topic.
  • Suggest a different activity.
  • Enlist friends for support.
  • Leave the situation.

You could also say you don’t drink. It’s simple, to the point and truthful. If you are recovering from alcoholism, this is your best answer.

  • “I am driving home.”
  • “I am a designated driver tonight.”
  • “I have to take care of my children when I get back”
  • “I have to wake up early tomorrow morning.”

When turning down a drink, be confident. You can build confidence by rehearsing what to say in these situations. Practicing your responses in advance allows you to critique your approach and change your phrasing.

To avoid feeling pressured to drink, attend activities that don’t involve alcohol. These settings could include coffeehouses, movie theaters, malls, fitness centers or your home.

Nonalcoholic Alternatives

In social settings, adults can turn to nonalcoholic drinks as an alternative. For example, mixing water and juice in a small glass could give the impression of a mixed alcoholic drink. This helps reduce peer pressure.

Consequences of Saying Yes

Each day, crowds of people succumb to peer pressure. However, doing so can lead to a number of problems.

Why Do People Say Yes?

  • They want to be liked.
  • They want to fit in and avoid feeling like an “outsider.”
  • They want to avoid ridicule.
  • They want to be rebellious.
  • They are trying to escape the pressures of school or work.
  • They are interested in trying something new.
(Video) Is peer pressure making it harder for people to cut down drinking alcohol? | ITV News

Individuals are more likely to give into peer pressure in social settings and are more likely to drink if those around them are. When attending social settings alone, a person’s odds of drinking increase.

How Tash Found Sobriety

Tash used alcohol to fit in with her new friends. When it didn’t work, she turned to therapy to quit drinking and cope with depression and anxiety.

Read Her Story

Loss of Authenticity

Allowing others to make decisions for you can jeopardize your originality, self-esteem, happiness and physical and mental health. It could also alienate individuals from their family members and true friends.

Peers who pressure you to do something against your desires likely aren’t your friends. Saying yes gives them more power and diminishes your own.

Effects of Alcohol

The effects of alcohol are dangerous. Alcohol affects parts of the brain that control movement, speech, judgment and memory. Heavy consumption can lead to blurred vision, slowed speech, impaired memory and difficulty walking.

  • In 2014, 16.3 million adults ages 18 and older had an alcohol use disorder. That is nearly 7 percent of the age group.
  • In 2014, about 679,000 adolescents ages 12–17 had an AUD, or nearly 3 percent of the age group.
  • Nearly 35 percent of 15-year-olds reported that they have had at least one drink in their lives.

Peer pressure is an epidemic among young people. In 2014, nearly 60 percent of full-time college students had drunk alcohol in the past month. Many students drink at bars or house parties, where peer pressure is common.

Consistently giving in to peer pressure can lead to frequent alcohol consumption. This could lead to alcohol problems or an alcohol addiction.

Outcomes of Saying No

Resisting peer pressure can be difficult, but the pros of doing so far outweigh the cons.

Several Benefits

  • Avoid effects of alcohol
  • Increase chances of arriving home safely
  • Avoid driving while intoxicated
  • Feel more self-control and confidence

Less alcohol consumption could give way to a healthier lifestyle, letting you engage in safe activities alongside loved ones. You avoid the consequences of alcohol, stressful situations and negative influences.

Ready to say no to alcohol?

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(Video) Athlete Peer Pressures Nerd To Drink | Dhar Mann

Potential Push-Back

It is common for peers to shame individuals for turning down a drink. A study published in Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal found shame to be the strongest predictor of vulnerability to peer pressure.

Peer Pressure and Alcohol (2)

Teens are most likely to give into shame. A study published in PeerJ suggests early life experiences are a predictor of someone’s vulnerability to shame, specifically those abused as children. The report also linked shame with substance abuse.

You may be ridiculed, not invited to future get-togethers or lose relationships with certain individuals. However, this should not discourage you.

Be Yourself

Don’t be a victim of someone else’s behaviors. Make sure there is someone to call if you are feeling pressured to drink in social situations. Plan an escape if the temptation becomes great. Your peers should not control your decisions, so don’t let them.

Surround yourself with strong people. Spending time with friends who resist peer pressure or avoid alcohol altogether increases your likelihood of doing the same. This positive influence may be helpful.

If you or someone you know has developed an alcohol addiction, alcohol rehab could help.


Peer Pressure and Alcohol (3)

Matt Gonzales,

(Video) 30 Days No Alcohol: Facing Social Pressure

Content Writer,

Matt Gonzales is a writer and researcher for He graduated with a degree in journalism from East Carolina University and began his professional writing career in 2011. Matt covers the latest drug trends and shares inspirational stories of people who have overcome addiction. Certified by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in health literacy, Matt leverages his experience in addiction research to provide hope to those struggling with substance use disorders.


Peer Pressure and Alcohol (4)



Medical Reviewer

Peer Pressure and Alcohol (5)

Ashraf Ali, MD

Psychiatrist, Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health

(Video) Quit Drinking Advice: How to deal with peer pressure

View Sources


Peer Pressure and Alcohol? ›

Perceived peer pressure has been shown to increase engagement in risky drinking practices, such as drinking games [18, 19]. Alcohol consumption frequently occurs in contexts where social influence through others may operate and is embedded within many social rituals.

How does peer pressure affect drinking? ›

Effects of Peer Pressure

A review of the research shows that peers have a greater influence on adolescent substance abuse than do parents. Peers can encourage friends to use drugs and alcohol or tease them for being afraid to try them, which can lead to the initiation of drinking and drug use.

How does peer pressure lead to alcoholism? ›

Because consuming alcohol is so socially acceptable, alcohol is the most commonly used substance in a peer pressure situation. Many individuals start using alcohol due to direct or indirect pressure they feel from peers who are drinking.

How many people drink alcohol because of peer pressure? ›

According to Drinkaware's report on peer pressure published in 2019, 60% of young adults (18-34) who drink believed pressure to drink to be common among their peers while this was only 29% of adult drinkers aged 35-54 and 20% of drinkers over the age of 55.

How alcohol prevents peer pressure? ›

How to Deal with Peer Pressure to Drink in Recovery & Stay Sober
  1. Peer pressure can come in many forms and occur at any age. Some people deal with peer pressure to settle down and have children. ...
  2. Be Mindful of the Situation. ...
  3. Walk Away. ...
  4. Find New Friends. ...
  5. Remind Yourself Why You Got Sober. ...
  6. Find a Non-Alcoholic Drink. ...
  7. Be Honest.
Aug 1, 2020

Does peer pressure cause underage drinking? ›

Another major contributor to teen drinking is the influence of their peers, or peer pressure. It is often difficult for teenagers to ignore social pressures, and peer pressure can have a massive influence on an adolescent's behaviors and actions.

What are the causes of teenage drinking? ›

Teenagers may drink because of peer pressure or stress or as a coping mechanism. Underage drinking is linked with binge drinking and alcohol poisoning and can even lead to death. Talking with children about alcohol makes them less likely to drink.

How do you refuse a guy to drink? ›

They'll get the message and let you go on your way.
  1. Sorry, You're Taken! Honestly, the chances of someone offering you a drink wanting to just be friends are slim. ...
  2. You Don't Speak Their Language. ...
  3. Take a "Phone Call" ...
  4. Say No.

What does alcohol do to a teenage brain? ›

Alcohol can damage or even destroy the cells that make up the hippocampus, which is why some people experience fuzzy memories or 'blackouts' after drinking. Because an adolescent brain is still developing, this damage can be particularly dangerous.

What are three reasons teens should not drink? ›

Underage drinking leads to academic problems in school, legal problems, physical and sexual assaults, unwanted pregnancies, suicides, vehicle crashes, abuse of other drugs, and lifelong impacts on brain development.

What type of alcohol is most popular with teenagers? ›

The brands with the highest rates of consumption among underage drinkers were: Bud Light (27.9 percent), Smirnoff Malt Beverages (17.0 percent), Budweiser (14.6 percent), Smirnoff Vodkas (12.7 percent), Coors Light (12.7 percent), Jack Daniel's Bourbons (11.4 percent), Corona Extra (11.3 percent), Mike's (10.8 percent) ...

Should I be friends with someone who rejected me? ›

Like all relationships, friendships take work. Although staying friends with an ex or someone you've rejected may sound nice in the moment, if you don't have the emotional capacity to build and develop a new friendship or you don't actually want to be friends — you don't need to feel pressured to suggest it.

How do you turn someone down for a drink? ›

  1. Be Direct And Clear. “Just tell them you're not interested. ...
  2. Don't Make It Too Personal. ...
  3. State Your Position Firmly. ...
  4. Remember That Their Reaction Doesn't Reflect On You. ...
  5. Accept The Fact That You Might Hurt Them. ...
  6. Simply Say "No" ...
  7. Treat Them The Way You'd Like To Be Treated. ...
  8. Tell Them You Just Don't Feel Chemistry.
Sep 18, 2018

How can you prepare for peer pressure to drink? ›

Try other strategies
  1. Have non-alcoholic drinks always in hand if you're quitting.
  2. Keep track of every drink if you're cutting back so you stay within your limits.
  3. Ask for support from others to cope with temptation.
  4. Plan an escape if the temptation gets too great.

What strategies can you use to overcome negative peer pressure as it relates to drinking and driving? ›

How to Resist Peer Pressure
  • Offer to be the DD. If you offer to be the designated driver for your friends, they'll be less likely to try to pressure you into drinking or doing drugs. ...
  • Keep a bottle of water in your hands at the party. ...
  • Say you have an early morning ahead. ...
  • Blame your parents.
Dec 3, 2015

How do I stop feeling pressured after drinking? ›

Be assertive when you feel pressured to drink more than you intend. Be confident in your decision not to drink. When you say “no” in a confident way, those around you will be less likely to keep pressuring you. Remember that you have the right to refuse alcohol.

Why should everyone share the responsibility of preventing friends from drinking and driving? ›

This prevention saves not only the person under the influence, but save countless other lives that person could harm if behind the wheel. FRIENDS DON'T LET FRIENDS DRIVE DRUNK.


1. How To Not Drink: Dealing With Peer Pressure
(Charisma on Command)
2. Peer Pressure
3. Don't feel pressured to Drink alcohol, here's how to handle it
(Rory J Knighton)
4. Peer Pressure: Smoking, Sex, Drinking, Bullying
(Hannah Crouch)
(Dr. Tommy Martin)
6. Refusal Skills
(The Prevention Connection)

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