In my book - Working with drug and alcohol users - I make quite a long statement on the teenage drug and alcohol user. I spend some time discussing the psychology of teenagers and how they differ from the adult population. This means of course that one needs to treat them differently when doing drug and alcohol counselling.
This is a short excerpt from the book:
Adolescents are also somewhat tribal in nature, they congregate in groups to hang out together. Hence the peer group (tribe) for the adolescent can assume significant importance in many ways including drug and alcohol use. Although parents sometimes like to think that their teenage boy is taking drugs because he has fallen in with a bad crowd, in the majority of cases peer groups and peer relationships are bi-directional in nature. Their ‘good’ teenage boy is probably contributing to the 'bad' behaviour of other teenagers in his peer group. He is effecting their behaviour as much as the others are effecting his.
There are some adolescents (and adults for that matter) who are highly dependent and passive individuals, who are significantly influenced by the ideas and wishes of others. However this is a small group and most are quite capable of making their own decisions even if there is peer pressure to take drugs which they may not wish to take. Despite this, any member of a peer group (passive/dependent or otherwise) who smokes marijuana gives permission to the other members to also smoke marijuana. It says to the others watching, "In our group this is the thing to do." So all peer group members influence the drug taking behavior of the others involved in the tribe. Hence the bi-directional nature of influence in peer group behavior. (end excerpt)
It is a very convenient excuse, like the alcohol excuse. Invariably a defence lawyer will say their client was intoxicated at the time of the crime. The hidden transaction being, “It’s not really his fault but it was the alcohol that made him do it.”
To say the teenager did it because of peer pressure says the same, “It’s not really his fault but he only did it because he was pressured to do it.” Parents and the teenager often both want this to be the case and at times they will collude with each other in this way without even realizing they are doing so. It is a very convenient psychological position to take and any counselor should consider it with suspicion when presented by the parents and/or teenager.