Is peer pressure the main cause of addiction? Unfortunately, what people believe their peers want them to do is often the cause of what they actually do. The findings from a National Drug Agency (AADK) study done in Malaysia revealed that of 26,841 drug addicts surveyed between 2007 and 2008, 55 percent became hooked on drugs after being introduced to the substance by friends.
Only 35 percent of those surveyed found themselves addicted to a substance as a result of trying it out of fun or curiosity. The study also found that the highest number of drug users tend to be general workers, including individuals from construction, sales, fishing, plantations and service industries.
The study also found that nearly 75 percent of the addicts had either completed education up to Form Three or Form Five. During their education, they had been exposed to prevention programs and information about the dangers of drug abuse.
Only 2.6 percent of addicts had never had any schooling and only 624 were women. More than 60 percent of these addicts were found in Kuala Lumpur, Kedah, Penang, Perak and Johor while barely 2 percent were from Sabah and Sarawak. Roughly 68 percent of drug users were found to be in the 18 – 39 age group.
The most popular narcotics among this group of addicts (70 percent) included heroin and morphine. According to AADK deputy director-general Prof. Dr. Madmood Nazar Mohamed, even the first taste of drugs can put a young person at risk of getting hooked.
Dr. Mohamed also noted that rehabilitation of addicts has been more successful recently as compared with previous years. Rehabilitation can take between one and two years, depending upon the person’s level of addiction. A case is considered to be successful when an individual is able to stay clear of drugs for two years after being released from the rehabilitation center.
What could be most interesting about the findings from the AADK is the fact that peer pressure can be a reality for an individual at any age. Individuals should keep this in mind when selecting the people with which they associate. At the same time, they need to develop the skills necessary to speak up and decline that first try to avoid the potential for addiction later.
Additional research into the impact of peer pressure on drug and alcohol use should be done to determine how this element should be ingrained into prevention and intervention methods.