It’s believed the causes and triggers of drug and alcohol abuse can be found within the person’s immediate environment, whether it’s home, school or work. While the concept of peer pressure is something more usually associated with teenagers, it is a phenomenon that operates in any setting and can affect anyone, regardless of age or social standing. It’s a natural part of the dynamics of any group, whether it’s family, friends or co-workers.
Take, for example, recent news about the famous young actress Demi Lovato. She revealed to the British magazine Fabulous that even at an early age she was exposed to drugs and alcohol. The people who offered it to her were promoters of clubs and restaurants she visited. The supposed aim was to get her to keep coming back to build more publicity for these venues. She further disclosed to the magazine that she has struggled with an eating disorder since the age of 12. Fortunately Lovato entered a drug rehab center in 2010 and has completed a year-and-a-half of treatment.
Her time in drug rehab seems to have been effective. She has come to realize how the Hollywood culture has made her vulnerable to addiction. She stated that one of the pitfalls of being a celebrity is that you simply can’t say ‘No’. As she recovers from her eating disorder, she has also gained a better understanding of how her insecurity about her body is a challenge that she needs to fully overcome before she can return to regular acting work. You probably know how Hollywood sets arbitrary and unrealistic standards of beauty, and it is this unhealthy perception that makes actresses like her susceptible to such disorders.
Lovato has noted on several occasions how difficult it is to discuss mental illness and addiction. As with many individuals who deal with the triggers of addiction and illness on a daily basis, the public eye doesn’t make that struggle any easier.
The entertainment industry is notorious for its permissiveness regarding drugs and alcohol. But that’s not to say that other fields or social environments don’t have their own distorted cultures that use peer pressure to encourage substance abuse. Substance abuse is not prejudice to income, industry or geography, but there are certain factors that can increase susceptibility.
Environmental factors, including stress, violence and early abuse, can contribute to the likelihood that a person may begin to abuse substances. These stressors can be found in any unhealthy environment — home, school and work are common physical locations.
It’s harder to define the non-physical locations that constitute someone’s environment. The people who surround someone on a daily basis create an environment where certain types of behavior seem common. If everyone else is doing something, that behavior some seems permissible. When substance abuse enters someone’s everyday lifestyle, its normalcy sometimes makes it difficult to acknowledge that it’s an issue.
If someone is unable to recognize their environment as a trigger, it’s often challenging to extricate them from it. This difficulty is true even when someone happens to recognize that their situation is conducive to their substance abuse. Changing someone’s environment means they must accept a complete lifestyle change. This level of change is overwhelming for multiple reasons, but especially because it’s a big challenge to walk away from the familiar into the unknown.
Substance abuse is a complex public health issue. For someone who is suffering from substance abuse, and for friends and family who are supporting a loved one, making changes to their environment is one of many ways to begin and maintain the recovery process.
Posted on June 9th, 2012 in Help Blog