The Influence Of Social Media On Drug Abuse Rates

From posts glamorizing drug use to dark web sales, social media has many effects on drug use, especially for teens.

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In an increasingly digital age, social media plays a central role in the lives of adolescents and adults.

It isn’t uncommon for social media posts to include content that glamorizes substance abuse. Many celebrities openly discuss their drug use, and thinly veiled references to drugs are common in social media.

This kind of content wildly exacerbates the range of peer-pressure and the desire to imitate personal idols among adolescents and even older adults.

These external influences may encourage some people to use social media to seek out sources of illicit substances on the internet.

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Social Media And Drug-Related Content

The connection between expanded sources of peer-pressure and an increased opportunity to market illegal drugs has not been lost on criminal drug networks.

Areas of the internet, known as the “dark web,” traffic in selling fake drugs that often contain fentanyl, methamphetamine, and other “hard drugs” to unsuspecting buyers who typically believe they’re buying something like cocaine, OxyContin, or Molly.

People who purchase drugs from these dealers don’t necessarily need to know how to navigate the “dark web.” Drug traffickers use careful advertising to reach their targets on social media platforms, including Snapchat, TikTok, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube.

The ads most frequently appear in 24-hour stories and use known code words and emojis to sell illicit drugs on social media without getting flagged by the platform’s terms of service (TOS).

Peer Influence In Social Media

The human brain doesn’t fully mature until around the age of 25, which can make younger people more likely to engage in risky behaviors and make snap decisions based on social pressure.

Adolescents and teenagers, in particular, are extremely vulnerable to the effects of social media because of their natural drive to imitate and be accepted by their peers.

As a result, young people who witness celebrities and more popular peers engaging or discussing substance abuse as a fun and expected part of socializing may be tempted to experiment with drugs.

In fact, studies show that 75% of teenagers who see photos on social media of other young people smoking marijuana or drinking alcohol have been encouraged to experiment with these substances.

In one study, 32.95% of adolescents reported seeing alcohol content posted by peers often, and 41.28% reported seeing marijuana content posted by peers often.

Online Drug Marketplaces

Drug traffickers are using online marketplaces and virtual currency to connect with buyers and hide the source of payments. Online marketplaces provide anonymity and connect buyers and sellers.

These marketplaces often use the “dark web”, a hidden part of the internet that can be easily accessed. There is no special equipment or technical knowledge required to access these sites.

The preferred payment method, cryptocurrency, has also become popular and simple to use.

Social Media And Substance Use Disorders

A study by the Columbia University National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse found that teenagers who use social media regularly are more likely to drink, abuse drugs, and buy tobacco than those who don’t use social media or use it infrequently.

Teenagers who use social media regularly are:

  • five times more likely to buy and smoke cigarettes
  • three times more likely to consume alcohol
  • two times more likely to use marijuana

In addition to being exposed to drugs, social media is also a catalyst for mental health problems that can lead to substance abuse.

Social media use is associated with depression, disordered eating, and sleep disturbances, which can lead to a disruption in neurological development, leading to suicidal behaviors and substance use among adolescents.

Public Health Implications

Overusing social media has been linked to issues with mental health in both adolescents and adults.

Cyberbullying, sleep disruption, stress, and depression are a few of the other public health implications of social media on adolescents and adults.

Social media can also influence people’s decision-making behaviors and increase the risk of misinformation, stigma, and violence.

Social media also creates a fear of missing out, colloquially known as FOMO, which is an anxiety associated with wanting to keep up with what other people are doing on social media.

Over the last two decades, research has repeatedly demonstrated connections between rising mental health issues and social media use.

Prevention Tools

Parents can have a major influence on an adolescent’s engagement in risky behaviors, including substance use.

Parental monitoring of social media use may reduce the impact of social media on alcohol and drug use in early adolescence.

However, talking with your children and teens about the realities of social media can be an even more important tool, as your child may have access to the internet where there are no parental controls.

Research also shows that adolescents are less likely to use drugs or alcohol when they are participating in activities such as sports, arts, or cultural activities.

Treatment Tools

If you’re concerned that social media is having a negative affect on your child, contact a mental health treatment facility to discuss possible treatment approaches.

Evidence-based therapies such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), and support groups can be useful for mental health disorders and substance abuse.

Find Treatment For A Substance Use Disorder Today

If you or someone you care for are looking for treatment for a substance use disorder, we can help.

Contact our specialists today at Bedrock Recovery Center to learn more about our treatment methods.

  1. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA)
  2. Federal Bureau Of Investigation (FBI)
  3. Florida International University
  4. National Library Of Medicine: PubMed
  5. National Library Of Medicine: PubMed
  6. National Library Of Medicine: PubMed
  7. National Library Of Medicine: PubMed,are%20doing%20on%20social%20media./
  8. Positive Choices,cannabis%2C%20vaping)%20amongst%20teenagers./
  9. The Annie E. Casey Foundation,poor%20body%20image%2C%20eating%20disorder/
  10. The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University
  11. The United States Government Accountability Office

Written by Bedrock Recovery Center Editorial Team

Published on: December 20, 2023

© 2024 Bedrock Recovery Center | All Rights Reserved

* This page does not provide medical advice.

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