By Oghenemaro Eruteyan
The transition from adolescence/youth to adulthood is borne out of the quest for independence and curiosity. This stage is what is considered to be the peak of human growth and development.
Adolescents experience rapid physical, cognitive and psychosocial growth which is largely conditioned by how they think, feel, act, interact, make decisions and see the world around them.
Adolescence is the transition stage between childhood and adulthood which is accompanied by drastic changes in the social brain, due to distinct timelines of two systems of the brain.
It is imperative to state that, these two systems in the human brain, control how decisions are made. They include; incentive processing system which helps to evaluate and determine decisions based on the possible risks and rewards of action, whereas, the cognitive control system encourages decision-making towards specific objectives by regulating impulse.
It is a time of irritability, severe mood swings, rapidly changing emotions, adherence to peer standards and loyalty. Although this stage is a shorter period, it has a long-term impact on one’s life, as individuals are influenced to conform to the behaviour, attitude, and values of their peers.
Peer pressure and social media are two interrelated motivating forces that can significantly influence others, particularly young people. Social media can provide people with valuable tools and a sense of connection, and also serves as a tool for control.
Peer pressure involves people within the same group influencing others in the group to engage in a behaviour or activity that they may not otherwise engage in. A peer can be any individual who belongs to the same social groups or circle as you and has some type of influence over you.
Approximately only 10 percent of adolescent say that peer pressure has never influenced them. 85 percent of high school students have felt peer pressure and about 70 percent of teen smokers and drug users started due to peer pressure. By age 15, one in three teens has had one or more alcoholic drinks.
Studies have shown that susceptibility to social influence is highest among adolescents compared to both younger and older counterparts.
Peer pressure can have various impacts on an individual including engaging in substance use, alcohol abuse, internet fraud, examination malpractice, and unsafe sex practices amongst others.
It is worth noting that peer persuasion can either be positive or negative and can manifest in a variety of ways. For instance, in some cases, peer influence can motivate people to make responsible choices and contractively, peer pressure can lead people into engaging in risky activities they would not necessarily do such as experimenting with drugs or alcohol/ adopting self-destructive habits.
There are certain behaviours one would portray as a victim including anxiety/depression, insecurities, low self-esteem, distance from family and friends, negative behavioural changes, potential for risky behaviour, academic distraction and addictions.
Others are; poor family support, loss of parents, curiosity, fear of being alone, low self-esteem, conflict at home, neglect and other factors are the reasons for succumbing to peer pressure.
Speaking with The Hope, Koroh Precious, a fresh graduate said “I started taking drugs in 2018. At first it was not frequent and I only did when I was around my friends. I had control over it, I told myself that it was peer influence, and could stop at any time.
“I stopped for a while after I kept a distance from those friends but after a while, business brought us back together and then something happened that made me went into depression. I doubted myself in so many areas of my life. I battled anger issues and anxiety. I felt alone and tried to fit in, I find out that the smoke helps me relax and the loneliness does not hit hard anymore. So, I started using it as a coping mechanism to help with the loss of my dad and mom at a tender age.
“Sadly speaking, I’m not happy with the fact that I smoke to cope with the issues of life and honestly wish I could turn back the hand of time and prevent myself from making those decisions.”
He added that “nothing can make you stop it if it doesn’t come from the mind and if you don’t make up your mind to stop, nothing can make you stop it.”
He expressed that “if he could stop, he would want to make himself useful to the society and help educate the younger ones about life, its experiences and how to overcome it because I wouldn’t want anyone to walk this path.
“It is like a secret society, once you are in, it’s hard to come out,” he added.
Speaking further, he said; “When I look at youths in society, it is hard to see the one who is not into drugs or carried away with the pleasures of life, and I am worried for the future and what the youth of nowadays would make of it, as I see them kill themselves with their hands to enrich their pockets.”
Sharing a similar view, Ukuyomi Tega said; “I started taking weed in 2016, stopped in 2018, then started again in 2020. The first time I tried it in 2016, my classmate at the time was the one who introduced me to it.”
He noted that “it would be very helpful to relieve my thoughts but when I took it, I felt very hungry, and extremely stressed, as it would not end.
Also speaking, Simon Preye said; “I started using drugs and smoking when I noticed that I was having sleepless nights. I started using it for sex and I told myself that I was not going to get addicted.
According to him; “it all started when money stopped coming as it used to. I began to smoke Colorado with some set of new friends, with whom it now became a habit that I smoke colos before eating and even before having sex, and then I was introduced to taking crack which I think was drawing my life back.”
He admitted trying to stop but could not even though he had cut off those friends.
“Whenever I take them, they increase my hormones to make me crave sex. At that point, I feel like I am in another world. Sadly, after all these effects are gone I end up regretting my decision of taking it,” he said.
He stressed that if he could stop, he wouldn’t want to see anyone go down that path.
“I feel therapy and being surrounded by loved ones would help me stop because I only see myself doing it when I am alone, he said.
Another drug user, Ojodan Balogun, said; “I started doing drugs at age 15 when I became an orphan. I tried staying with some family and friends, but I always got kicked out. Then I moved in to stay with some friends, where I was introduced to drugs.
His words: I started because I wanted to feel among and be accepted, that was how I became a drug addict. When I found out it helps me live with the pain of having no one, I used it to get over my struggles. Though I don’t feel good taking it and want to stop, I have already gone too far. I feel bad that my late parents would be ashamed of their only child doing drugs and smoking. I just pray God helps me fight this battle because honestly, I can’t do it alone.
Aminu Kalu, a drug user also said that he was 16 when I was introduced to pills by a friend. “At first, I started to use it as a mechanism to stop depression.
It helped me to fight suicidal thoughts and stopped me from thinking about hurting myself but it did not last long because once I regained myself, the thought comes back and I did not know what will make me stop. I would literally just go a whole day drinking, mixing and taking all sorts of pills and cried myself to sleep, he added.
Oghenemaro Eruteyan is a Corps member serving with The Hope.