Making your own choice
There is no single reason why people use drugs. Usually, it is a combination of things that leads to people choosing to use drugs. Influences include:
- To fit in/feel part of a group;
- A belief that everyone else is doing it;
- To forget problems;
- To escape reality;
- To loosen up;
- To be rebellious;
- Out of curiosity;
- Out of boredom;
- To feel more sociable;
- To try and have fun and feel happy.
Although it varies from person to person, situations where you have to disagree with others or refuse something can feel awkward and hard to handle.
It may help to know that by not taking drugs you are in the majority. Most young people in Australia do not use illegal drugs.
Here are a few options to help you deal with situations where you may be inclined or pressured to take drugs:
- Option 1: Avoid situations;
- Option 2: Make an excuse;
- Option 3: Walk away;
- Option 4: Be assertive;
- Option 5: "Broken Record" technique.
Option 1: Avoid situations
If you don’t think you will be able to resist the offer or pressure to take drugs then it may be best to avoid that situation or group of people altogether. Try to hang out with people who share similar interests and do not use drugs. Good friends should respect your decision not to use drugs. Getting involved in a new activity and meeting some new people can help.
Option 2: Make an excuse
This involves the person making an excuse to get out of the situation. For example:
- “No thanks, my parents are picking me up soon”
- “Last time I had it, I reacted really badly”
- “I’ve got to go soon”
- “I can’t take any tonight; I’m on medication”
- “No thanks, I will stay sober and keep an eye out to make sure everyone else is safe”.
Option 3: Walk away
If a person offers you drugs, you can simply make your excuses and go. You can leave by saying: “I need to go to the bathroom” or “Is that Angela over there? I need to catch up; I haven’t seen her in ages”.
Option 4: Be assertive
Assertive communication involves a person clearly stating their needs, wants and feelings whilst still being respectful of others. Learning to be assertive takes practice, so don’t worry if it doesn’t come naturally.
Assertive communication includes three steps:
- Stating your answer;
- Giving your reason;
- Showing understanding.
The following is an example of assertive communication:
Tom: Just have one pill, your parents won’t know.
Katie: No thanks, I don’t want to risk it. They probably won’t find out but if they do I’ll be grounded for life.
Showing this understanding makes it very difficult for people to keep trying to exert pressure and most people will stop. If you’re comfortable with your decision not to use drugs, that will come across in your body language. This can be achieved by:
- Keeping a clear firm voice, speaking clearly and deliberately;
- Maintaining eye contact;
- Facing the person with your body so that you do not look like you are hiding;
- Having a facial expression that says what you mean.
Option 5: "Broken Record" technique
This just involves continually saying “no” in the politest possible way. You just say it over and over again and never change your tune. An example is provided below:
Sam: Come with me tonight.
Jess: No thanks, I don’t really want to go to a club.
Sam: Just this once.
Jess: No thanks, not even this once.
Sam: But you’re normally such fun.
Jess: Not tonight. No thanks.
Sam: Go on, you’re my best friend.
Jess: Yeah, but no thanks, I don’t feel like going tonight.
This factsheet was developed following expert review by researchers at the NHMRC Centre of Research Excellence in Mental Health and Substance Use, National Drug & Alcohol Research Centre, UNSW and the National Drug Research Institute, Curtin University. See Student booklet for more information.