Social media and drug abuse among teenagers are two hot topics that have been all over the headlines in recent years.
While these two issues appear very different, there is a link between them – so much so that some young people are being swayed by their social media friends to try drugs.
Many parents are worried about their children’s online lives and are wondering how they can help to prevent them from getting sucked into drug abuse. How can they keep an eye on what their teenager is doing?
Here is a guide to social media influences and drug abuse.
Table of Contents
- Social Media Portrayals of Drugs
- Peer Pressure and Influences
- Influencers, Brand Endorsements, and Advertising
- Availability of Dangerous Drugs
- Self-Medicating and Self-Harming Behavior
- Cyberbullying and Mental Health
- Detox and Withdrawal from drugs and Social Media Apps
- Takeaway: Teenagers need to understand the risks of using social media.
Social Media Portrayals of Drugs
Social media is a popular strategy used to connect buyers and sellers and despite that’s illegal to sell drugs like alcohol, tobacco, and e-cigs to teenagers, many of the marketing campaigns target that exact group.
A report released in 2011 found that teenagers that use social media were more likely to use marijuana, tobacco, and alcohol compared to teens that avoid those platforms.
Pictures littering the internet of friends and family having a good time, sometimes with drugs or alcohol may give feelings of loneliness and the desire to perform the same activities to have a good time as well.
Peer Pressure and Influences
98% of people between 13 and 33 years of age are actively using at least one social media platform.
All the pictures, information, and videos available on social media, from friends, family, celebrities, and role models, normalize drug and alcohol use. The image created on social for some users makes the use of these substances look far more common and accepting than it is.
Americans between the ages of 12 and 17 are 5 times more likely to use tobacco if they spend time on social media, 3 times more likely to consume alcohol, and 2 times as likely to use marijuana.
Influencers, Brand Endorsements, and Advertising
Marketing of drugs and other products has always been easiest when you find someone famous, or someone that people look up to, to advertise.
Teens can be exposed to images and videos of celebrities, musicians, and models advertising certain products or glamorizing certain behaviors.
Teens exposed to photos of smoking, drinking, and other drug-involved activities are more likely to consume those items themselves. Advertising plays a key role in the decision to use tobacco and alcohol.
Despite laws restricting advertising on tobacco products, 79% of children ages 11 to 19 years reported seeing ads for tobacco products and 68% saw ads for e-cigarettes. While there are restrictions on the internet, it’s incredibly difficult to enforce these on social media platforms.
Advertising experts have stated that Big Tobacco must hook kids on nicotine before their brains fully develop because adult minds aren’t as susceptible to nicotine addiction.
Availability of Dangerous Drugs
Of 358 participants in a recent study, 76% of them stated that they used the platform Snapchat to access drugs and another 21% stated that they preferred Instagram to gain access to drugs.
A staggering 82% of drug dealers on Instagram sell marijuana but codeine cocktails are also available through 58% of the dealers and 20% are selling MDMA.
Self-Medicating and Self-Harming Behavior
Mental health challenges play a prominent role in the path to substance abuse. Drugs are often turned to as a coping mechanism or self-medicating against isolation, loneliness, and depression.
Social media has been attributed to feelings of devaluation. People only post the best and the good online and teens especially are regularly exposed to what is viewed as perfect lives; more perfect than their own.
It’s impossible to attain the life that people present on social media because it doesn’t exist. This is hard for adults to navigate and even more so for teenagers.
Negative feelings about yourself and others can increase with continued exposure to social media. Many people, including teens, turn to alcohol or drugs when they don’t have healthy outlets for emotional struggles.
If this is something you or your teenager is struggling with, you’re not alone. There are many programs available at Gallus Detox to help with any addictions you may be struggling with.
Cyberbullying and Mental Health
Despite the seemingly positive influence social media has on our lives, it’s also attributed to mental health problems like sleep disturbance, eating disorders, and depression. Mental health crises are one of the leading causes of substance abuse struggles.
The glamorized version of drug and alcohol abuse presented on social media sweeps under the rug the dark aspects of that life. We’re presented with the best, ignoring the worst, increasing feelings of ineptitude and low self-worth.
It’s no secret that social media has led to ‘faceless’ attacks on others through commenting, rumors, or lies and this cyberbullying can have a lasting impact on an adult’s life, even more on a teenager.
Those who have suffered as a result of cyberbullying are more than two times more likely to use drugs like alcohol, tobacco, or marijuana.
Detox and Withdrawal from drugs and Social Media Apps
A whopping 40% of people between the ages of 13 and 33 reported feeling an addiction to social media apps. Half of those involved in the study claimed they feel more of a rush of feel-good hormones when using social media apps than in-person connections.
Social media can become another addictive habit interfering with your recovery from addiction to other substances.
Despite the dark side of social media, for some, it can be uplifting and serve as an outlet to connect to other addiction and recovery survivors. As with many things in life, it’s all about how you use it and knowing when it’s too much.
So long as there are people using social media and young people looking to fit in, there will be a connection between social media and drug use in teenagers.
Social media’s influence on drug use in teenagers is very real.
While it certainly does not cause drug use by itself, it does provide a platform for people to interact and share experiences.
Social media also provides a place where opinions can be spread widely and quickly, which can influence people’s decisions.
However, since many teens access social media through their smartphones, steps can be taken to limit this influence by encouraging teenagers to engage in these activities primarily on a desktop or laptop computer, allowing parents to monitor and limit the access teens have to social media.