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What Is the Link Between Bullying, Drug Abuse, and Alcoholism?

Aug 10, 2019 10:59 AM EDT

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Bullying involves repeated, aggressive behavior that often leads to physical, psychological, and social problems. It is also a risk factor for drug abuse and alcoholism.

Drug abuse and alcoholism are major problems for high school students. In a national study conducted by CASAColumbia (CASA) at Columbia University, approximately 10 million high school students said they have used addictive substances. Additionally, the study revealed 25% of Americans who started using an addictive substance prior to age 18 are now dealing with addiction.

In some instances, peer pressure is a common link between bullying, drug abuse, and alcoholism. If children understand peer pressure and the dangers associated with it, however, they may be better equipped to alleviate this problem before it results in a drug or alcohol addiction.

Peer Pressure: Here's What You Need to Know

Peer pressure occurs when an individual or group urges others to change their behaviors to conform to the majority. It sometimes influences the way a person dresses, acts, builds friendships, and makes decisions. Peer pressure may even make a person take unnecessary risks in the hopes of gaining acceptance and approval from others.

Peer pressure can be positive or negative. For example, if a group promotes inclusive behavior, it may discourage bullying. On the other hand, if a group excludes those it deems "unworthy" to join, the group could make it tough for others to speak out against bullying.

Oftentimes, kids give in to peer pressure because they want to feel like they are part of the crowd. Children sometimes fear the bullying that may occur if they stand up to peer pressure, too. In either instance, the long-term damage of giving in to peer pressure can be significant.

Everyone is responsible for bullying, and men, women, and children play active roles in bullying prevention. If children embrace a "pack" mentality at a young age, they may struggle to resist peer pressure to use drugs, alcohol, and other illicit substances down the line. As a result, these kids may be more prone than others to drug and alcohol addiction.

Will Bullying and Peer Pressure Lead to a Drug or Alcohol Addiction?

Bullying sometimes triggers sadness, guilt, anxiety, and other emotions. If these emotions escalate over time, they may lead a child to use drugs or alcohol.

Let's not forget about cyberbullying and the peer pressure associated with social media, either.

In today's always-on, always-connected society, children frequently use Facebook, Twitter, and other social networks to engage with one another. At the same time, social networks make it easy for children to share content to embarrass, humiliate, or degrade others. This may result in cyberbullying that contributes to a drug or alcohol addiction. 

For children, bullying and peer pressure may seem inconsequential, but the ramifications of these behaviors are substantial relative to drug and alcohol abuse. If a child starts using drugs or alcohol, he or she is susceptible to behavioral and mood changes and health issues, along with addiction. Worst of all, drug or alcohol abuse puts a child's future in danger and may be fatal.

Are Peer Pressure and Bullying Preventable?

It may seem virtually impossible to combat peer pressure and bullying, particularly for children. Fortunately, there are lots of things parents can do to help their kids address peer pressure and bullying, including:

Open the lines of communication. Talk to a child about peer pressure and bullying. That way, a parent can help a child alleviate his or her peer pressure and bullying concerns. And together, a parent and child can determine the best course of action to deal with peer pressure, bullying, and various other problems.

Establish rules and consequences for bullying. Bullying is inexcusable, and a parent must establish clear-cut rules associated with bullying. If a child understands the consequences of bullying behavior or refusal to report bullying behavior to an adult, he or she may be less likely than ever before to bully others.

Instill confidence. Reward a child for his or her positive choices. This helps boost a child's self-esteem and empowers him or her with the confidence to stand up to peer pressure.

Provide constant support. Continue to support a child, even if he or she occasionally makes a poor decision. Remember, every decision is a learning experience, and a child can learn from an error and take the necessary steps to avoid making the same mistake twice. 

It is a parent's responsibility to teach his or her child how to deal with peer pressure and bullying. If a child possesses the skills and confidence to address peer pressure and bullying, he or she could avoid a drug or alcohol addiction. 

The Bottom Line: Don't Wait to Address Bullying, Drug Abuse, and Alcoholism

Bullying, drug abuse, and alcoholism are a severe problem for parents and kids alike. Thankfully, parents can talk to their children about these issues. This allows parents and kids to analyze bullying, drug abuse, and alcoholism and their short- and long-term ramifications. Best of all, parents and kids can work together to stop bullying that otherwise leads to drug abuse and alcoholism. 


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