Drugs and Alcohol

Choosing not to use drugs

All of the people we talked to had been offered drugs, or knew where they could get them, but some had chosen not to take them. Here, young people talk about why they keep away from illegal substances including:
  • Fear of the risks involved in drug-taking
  • Family relationships
  • Having aims and ambitions in life
  • Having no interest in drugs
They also talked about how to handle pressure from others to take drugs.
Fear of the risks
Some had a fear of becoming addicted to drugs which put them off trying them. Steph’s mother had a heroin addiction. She can’t help but associate illegal substances with drug addiction and says that her upbringing means she can’t have a ‘careless’ attitude to drugs.
A few other people also described their concerns about the risks and consequences of drug taking as the main reason for not wanting to try them. PSHE lessons taught young people about the risks of drug-taking and some were influenced by high-profile cases of drug-related deaths involving young people. Jamie, Stefanie and Jen were all secondary school students at the time that Leah Betts died after taking ecstasy. Her father spoke at Jamie’s school as part of a campaign to make young people aware of the risks of taking drugs.
Family life
Respect for parents, and sometimes grandparents, was another important reason for not using drugs.  Stefanie once tried cannabis with her school friends but was terrified of the thought of her mum finding out. She described her mum as someone with ‘strong’ anti-drug opinions.
Many parents had spoken openly about drugs and alcohol with their children and encouraged them to feel confident to say ‘no’ (see Family relationships, drugs and alcohol).
Aims and ambitions
Career goals also influenced people’s attitudes to using illegal drugs. Jamie was in the Royal Air Force (RAF) where they were routinely and randomly tested for illegal substances. Anyone who tested positive was instantly sacked. He was once offered a line of cocaine by a stranger in a club but it is only since leaving the service that Jamie started to smoke cannabis very occasionally. Sport played an important role in Emma’s life and was the main reason for never dabbling with drugs. 
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No interest in drugs
Some people said that illegal drugs had simply never appealed to them. They described having “no interest” in them and did not find anything about drug taking “appealing”. Bekky (above) didn’t like the way people on drugs look and behave.
Handling peer pressure
Many people said it was easy to say ‘no’ to drugs. They said good friends would respect their choice.
Some described themselves as ‘strong-minded’ individuals, not easily pushed into doing things they didn’t want to do. Jamie and Bekky said that those who want to look ‘cool’ or try to ‘fit in’ who are more likely to give in to peer pressure
Having a group of friends who do not take drugs made it easier for people to avoid peer pressure. Alex described how it removed the pressure to experiment. Kayleigh described her teenage group of friends as ‘shy’ and ‘geeks’ and not part of the ‘in-crowd’ doing ‘cool’ things. At the time she thought it was a disaster but now thinks she was lucky.

Last reviewed: July 2018.
Last updated: January 2015.


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