The Conformist Rut.

In this modern day and age it has become a norm for most teenagers to align themselves with the popular opinions prevalent in their surroundings, and specifically in their age group. No one wants to stick out like a sore thumb. However this trend of being one with the group extends not only to clothes, books or television shows, but also to certain dangerous life choices such as drinking and smoking. It is one thing when curiosity of the child prompts him or her to explore this “uncharted” territory, but it is quite another thing when social pressure, especially from the peer group, forces a child to do so.

social-pressureAs Manjari Manoharan, a teenager studying in  Gear international school, she narrates an incident where one of her friends who had never indulged in “any of these ‘habits’ except for wine once in a while” was forced to “smoke weed” by his friends at a party. “they turned it into a game of 21 dares, his chance came, he still said no and everyone’s like ‘don’t be a spoil sport’, ‘don’t spoil the mood’, ‘it’s just a game’ so he didn’t want to be the ‘spoil sport’ or the person who ruins fun for everyone else so he did it. He smoked” After that day, he started smoking “pretty frequently” according to Manjari .“These habits catch on easily if you’re around people like this and want to be a part of them” she adds.

According to http://deaddictioncentres.in nearly 75% of the youth in states like Punjab are addicted to drugs .That is an extremely high percent because it means three in every four children are addicted drug users. Also, theaddictioncentre.org, explicitly states that the pleasure centres of a teenager’s brain DRUGS.jpgdevelop faster than the parts of the brain responsible for decision-making and risk analysis and Drug and alcohol experimentation is often highest during these critical formative years. This is what causes teenagers to ‘take a drink’ or ‘have a smoke’ without thinking twice or dwelling on the larger repercussions of their actions. Those who get dependent upon drugs or alcohol, take it upon themselves in turn to make others dependent on it too so that they do not feel like they are the only ones. Statistics show that drug abuse is a growing problem among teens. In addition to cocaine, Ecstasy and other club drugs, a recent Monitoring the Future Study showed that the top six most abused drugs by teens are: marijuana (31.5%), Vicodin (9.7%), amphetamines (8.1%), cough medicine (6.9%), sedatives & tranquilizers (6.6% each).

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There are some teenagers who propelled by their curiosity do try out drugs but at least in these cases it is on their own volition. On speaking to Meenali Nirvay, a 11th grader in an international school who says she knows people who do drugs voluntarily. However she adds, “I think one reason why people who indulge in drugs do it for acceptance and do it to be a part of the cool kids gang. It always begins with a group of cool kids.” “I think 40-50% of students that I know may have indulged in drugs or alcohol. This habit may have been triggered not only by social pressure, but also by stress.” Says Kanishka Chandra, who also adds that the kids who generally do drugs are rather boisterous and attention seeking.

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Although, many teenagers come under the influence of their peers and divert their behaviour so as to conform, there is still a large portion of the youths population who have a strong conscience and are not easily Swayed by their curiosity in matters where it is uncalled for. As Rohan Mahesh, a 18 year old student recalls, “There was this one time that my friends and I went out for dinner and all of them indulged in smoking and drinking. And even though they asked me to join them, I was least interested in doing either and politely declined it. I knew it was not right and I stuck to my beliefs”.

Is Social acceptance truly worth doing something you believe is wrong ? I leave this for you to decide.

What is your opinion? I would love to hear it!