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Why You Should Refuse Drugs & How to Say No

Why Should Young People Refuse Drugs?

A drug is defined as any chemical substance, medicine, or naturally-occurring substance that is designed to have an effect on the body when introduced into the body. In certain medical situations, drugs are necessary. But drugs can also be harmful. Even pharmaceutical drugs, and especially street drugs, can and do cause harm. Drugs can change the way you think, feel, and act. Drugs, whether they are natural, plant-based drugs, chemical substances, or pharmaceutical medicines, change how your body works. Drugs can harm your body and how you think and react to situations. Even alcohol, which is a drug, can be harmful.

Drugs are addictive, meaning when a young person uses them, even just once, they can easily become hooked on the drugs and be unable to stop using them. As someone continues to use drugs, their body will naturally build up a tolerance to the drugs, causing them to crave more and more of the drug. The more drugs an individual uses, the more likely they are to experience an overdose, which can end in death.

Drugs also have a horrendous effect on the human body. From cannabis to heroin, any mind-altering drug causes harm on the mind, body, and spirit. Drug use can cause anything from memory loss to heart problems, sensory deprivation, accidents, injuries, organ failure, lung problems, liver disease, etc.

Drugs also compel people to make poor decisions, from job loss to fights, poor sexual choices, unnecessary arguments, trouble at home, problems in school etc.

Entire books could be written on the harm caused by drugs, and this is by no means a complete list. But it should serve to give people an idea of why it is so important that young people say no.

Defining Peer Pressure – A Harmful Social Phenomenon

One of the greatest challenges facing young people is determining how to live their lives in a way that allows them to fit in with their peers while also living by their own, personal moral code. Because adolescents, teenagers, and young adults are often easily influenced by their peers, young people must learn how to navigate interactions with their social groups and either avoid or negotiate difficult, peer pressure situations.

One of the most concerning types of peer pressure in youth culture is when young people are pressured to use drugs by their “friends.” To better understand the nature of this sociological problem, a recent study examined the connection between peer pressure and alcohol consumption among adults living in the United Kingdom. Published in BMC Public Health, the study authors defined peer pressure as such:

 "Any attempt by one or more peers to compel an individual to follow in the decisions or behaviours favoured by the pressuring individual or group."


That study arrived at several interesting conclusions regarding adults, peer pressure, and alcohol misuse. Quoting another excerpt from the study:

"Pressure to drink alcohol affects individuals across the life span and can be experienced as overt and aggressive, or subtle and friendly. Those consuming little or no alcohol are more likely to feel overt forms of peer pressure. Some developed strategies to cope with pressure from drinkers. Peer pressure can result in feelings of social isolation, or giving in by consuming alcohol against one's wishes."

There is no doubt that peer pressure pushes young people into risky, even life-threatening situations. What can young people living in the UK do when their peers try to pressure them into using drugs or alcohol?

How to Refuse Drugs

Here are ten things to say or do when someone tries to get you to use drugs or alcohol:

  1. Tell them no. A direct, no-details-included negative response to someone trying to get you to use drugs or alcohol is often the best response. Try saying things like: "No, sorry, but I don't use…." or, "No, I'm going to stay clean" or, "No, I'm trying to cut back on that." 
  2. Another approach is to give them a reason why you're saying no. Try saying things like: "Drugs and alcohol are bad for my health. No thank you" or, "I could lose my housing if I use drugs" or, "I have trouble when I use…" 
  3. Be more firm, and ask the person not to ask you to use drugs or alcohol again. Try saying things like: "Listen, I said I'm trying to stay clean. So the answer is no. Don't ask me again" or, "I already told you I don't use drugs. Stop asking" or, "I'm trying to stay clean. Please don't ask me to use anymore." 
  4. One thing you can do if someone is particularly pushy is to leave the area. If you see that someone has drugs or alcohol at an event or gathering where you do not want to be exposed to such drugs, safely leave the area. 
  5. Refer to your friends who don't use drugs. When you say things like, "I'm not going to use drugs, my other friends don't use drugs, and I'm not about to start" or, "We don't use drugs in my friend group" or, "People I care about would be mad at me," not only are you indicating that you're not going to use drugs, but you're also hinting that other people who matter also don't approve of the activity.
  6. Make an excuse to leave. Another option is to avoid the issue of the drugs or alcohol itself and make up a reason to leave the environment. You can say things like, "I can't stay; I've got to help my dad with something" or, "I'm supposed to meet someone in a few minutes," or, "I need to be home by a certain time."
  7. Remind the person who is peer pressuring you of the consequences of drug use. Talking about how drugs and alcohol kill people, how they can get users incarcerated, how they threaten futures, and how awful the side effects are can not only reduce the peer pressure, it can also get the person who is pressuring you to themselves stop experimenting with drugs.
  8. Use humour to deflect the situation. Sometimes, a humorous response can be enough to avoid the situation without offending anyone. Try saying things like, "No thanks, I really do need all the brain cells I can get" or, "Doesn't that stuff stunt your growth? I'm too short as it is!"
  9. Change the subject. Sometimes, it's best to avoid the fact that someone is peer pressuring you rather than directly addressing it. Simply changing the subject and talking about something else can be a simple, confrontation-free approach to getting out of a peer pressure situation.
  10. Keep saying no, no matter what. If the person persists and if all else fails, keep saying no, no matter what. If they continue to persist, call one of your parents, call a friend or sibling, and have someone come get you.

When the Peer Pressure is Overwhelming…

If the peer pressure is overwhelming, do everything you can to extricate yourself from the environment where the peer pressure is occurring. Whether this involves leaving on your own, phoning a friend or family member, calling a cab, or taking public transport, removing yourself from the environment is crucial. If the peer pressure is so great that you feel you are in any danger, call an emergency line and request assistance.

Preventive Strategies - Keeping Yourself Safe from Peer Pressure Situations in the Future

One bad peer pressure experience is one too many, but learning something from such situations is possible. Taking appropriate precautions can often entirely prevent peer pressure scenarios from occurring. For example:

  • Do not attend social events or gatherings where you think there may be drugs or alcohol present.
  • Always have a backup plan in case a gathering becomes uncomfortable.
  • Keep your mobile device on you at all times.
  • Have an "accountabilibuddy," someone who you can agree to watch out for who will also watch out for you.
  • Set a time to leave and make sure the group knows this is when you plan to depart.

Drug Education - Get Informed, Then Say No to Drugs

One of your best defences for guarding against peer pressure is simply knowing all of the many, many reasons why you wouldn't want to use drugs and alcohol. When people understand the risks at hand with drug and alcohol use, when they know the physical, psychological, behavioural, and spiritual effects of using such dangerous drugs, they are much less likely to even consider the possibility of drinking or using drugs.

Get informed, get educated, learn the truth about drugs, and never let anyone talk you into doing something you don't want to do.


by Ren Brabenec

After several years of valuable experience as an employee at an addiction treatment center, Ren now works as a drug and alcohol research specialist and writer. He’s written over 6 million words on drugs, alcohol, addiction, and how substance abuse affects young people, families, and our society. Ren is focused on using his skills and knowledge as an author and addiction counselor to promote recovery and effective solutions to the drug crisis. You can connect with Ren on LinkedIn.

Posted on Tuesday 6th April 2021

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