How to Avoid Drinking Alcohol When Your Friends Drink

Having the tools you need to combat peer pressure will help you avoid the risks associated with underage drinking.

From a young age, you’ve listened to lectures from your parents and teachers encouraging you to follow your own path and make smart decisions to avoid negative peer pressure. Navigating the high school hallways and continuing to embrace your individuality isn’t easy. Don’t be too hard on yourself. Sticking to your values and refusing to succumb to peer pressure is a full-time job. Feeling the pressure to conform is common at your age because you’re spending more time with friends and less time on the home front.

For what it’s worth, peer pressure isn’t all bad. It can set positive examples, increase self-confidence, provide encouragement, and expose you to valuable new experiences. After all, would you have tried out for the lacrosse team or for a part in the school play if you didn’t have the support and encouragement of your friends? Probably not. Accepting the invitation to celebrate Eid al-Fitr at a classmate’s house introduced you to a new culture and some delicious food. Borrowing the bestseller from your friend kept you riveted for a weekend.

Your classmates can open new doors and provide you with new opportunities, but freedom comes with a downside. In addition to positive pressure, it’s highly likely your peers are also vaping in the high school bathroom, sneaking sips of alcohol from a water bottle at a football game, or making you feel like you’re the only teen who is still a virgin. Negative peer pressure is real.

Make the Safe Choice

At least 8% of teens feel pressure to have sex, and 6% face pressure to drink alcohol, a Pew Research Study reported. Seven million kids aged 12 to 20 took at least a few sips of alcohol in the last month. Young people drink at least 4% of the alcohol consumed in the United States, and 90% of it is consumed while binge drinking.

More teens die as a result of alcohol use than all other illicit drugs combined, and more than one-third of teen traffic deaths are alcohol-related. Underage drinking can lead to higher rates of absences or lower grades at school, and it can disrupt normal growth or sexual development. Teens who use alcohol are at a higher risk for developing mental illnesses such as depression and psychosis as adults.

Five Practical Tips to Stay Sober

Having the tools and tricks of the trade to stay safe and stick to your resolve will help you continue to march to your own drummer and understand why teens drink alcohol. Just because it feels like everyone else is drinking doesn’t mean you have to participate. Here are five practical tips for how to avoid drinking alcohol.

  1. Follow Your Gut. Everyone gets that feeling in the pit of their stomach when faced with a dangerous situation. If your instincts are telling you to take a step back, follow them. Listening to your gut will rarely lead you astray.
  2. Role Play. Take some time to practice declining a drink. Feel free to appoint yourself the designated driver, use sports as an excuse, or blame your parents for being too strict. Whatever reason you come up with for resisting the urge to drink, role-playing the situation in front of the bathroom mirror will ensure you are prepared.
  3. Make a New Plan. Spend some time with your parents brainstorming fun and safe activities you can do with your friends. You’ll be ready with alternative options when your friends start discussing attending a party where you suspect there may be alcohol. Chances are, most of your friends will be relieved you came up with a better choice.
  4. Plan Your Escape Route. Impress your parents by calling them to ask for a ride home or call a trusted adult friend. They will be happy to hop in the car and help you make a quick and safe getaway.
  5. Take the Pledge. Start the conversation with your parents or trusted adult friend about underage drinking. They are here to help and being honest about the peer pressure you face on a daily basis will help you avoid dangerous situations.

Visit Talk It Out NC to get more information on underage drinking, or to get tips on how to Start the Conversation about alcohol. You can also learn more about how to live and lead with positive values and morals by visiting Rise Above the Norm, an alcohol abuse education program.