Social media sites have become a large part of people’s daily lives, especially when it comes to teenagers and young adults.

Some people will spend hours a day scrolling through pictures on Instagram or making their next video on TikTok with the hopes that that one will go viral. While the goal of these platforms is to have fun, provide entertainment, and to get people socializing online, so much screen time could be having unforeseen consequences.

Is Social Media Increasing Drug Use Among Teens & Young Adults?

There have been several studies surrounding social media and its effects on mental health. While the results are mixed, the general consensus seems to be that in most cases of heavy use, social media causes depression and loneliness. This connection alone is alarming, but it may not be the only cause for concern.

With these sites only growing in popularity and number, many people are starting to look at the connection between social media and substance abuse. One study found that teens who use social media are more likely to use tobacco, alcohol, and marijuana than their peers who don’t.1 The relationship between drinking and social media is especially alarming. Greater alcohol-related social media engagement is correlated with higher rates of self-reported drinking problems as well as alcohol use disorders.2 Even scarier is that exposure to friends’ alcohol-related social media content could actually predict the onset of drinking in adolescents.3

It isn’t just initiating these problems either, for people already in recovery, social media could be problematic for their sobriety. If you or someone you care about has relapsed, our relapse recovery program in Philly could help you or them get back on track.

Why Are Social Media & Drug Use Connected?

While it is clear that that social media and drugs are connected in some way, the next question is why? Social media is a relatively new phenomenon so research on the topic still needs to be done. Some of the suspected reasons for the connection between social media and drug use may be that social media glamorizes substance abuse, hurts mental health, leads to more exposure to such substances, and offers another means of buying drugs.

Glamorizing Drugs and Alcohol

Many people argue that social media glamorizes drugs and alcohol, and it is easy to see why. One study found that 97% of alcohol-related posts of youth on Instagram and Facebook showed alcohol in a positive social context.4 Not only are the average young adults posting pictures of themselves with fancy alcoholic drinks or out drinking with friends, but celebrities are doing it too. Instagram especially has long been criticized as being a highlight real and a lead cause of FOMO (fear of missing out). When the rich and famous are posting luxurious pictures of themselves with a drink in hand, it is easy to get caught up in the idea that these substances are needed to have a good time, encouraging people to give it a try themselves.

Poor Mental Health

Mental health problems and substance abuse are often connected. Because excess social media use often leads to poorer mental health, these frequent users may be turning to drugs or alcohol to help them cope. While these substances may provide a temporary escape from these negative feelings, in the long run they usually make matters worse.

Increased Exposure

Especially for young adults who spend several hours a day on social media sites, their exposure to drugs and alcohol is likely increased and usually depicted in a positive light as well. Social media posts involving alcohol is prevalent with content of people going out drinking tending to be more post-worthy than a sober night in with friends. Companies also use social media sites to post glamorous looking ads for alcohol. When these substances are seen repeatedly in a positive way, they become normalized by the brain. For vulnerable populations like young adults, this increased exposure could make them more willing to try drinking or drugs for themselves.

Means of Buying Drugs

Besides just being more likely to use drugs or alcohol because of their social media activities, your child could be buying drugs on online. Social media outlets especially provide a seemingly safer, less intimidating, and easier means of buying drugs than going to a drug dealer on the street.

What Parents Can Do

For parents of young adults and teenagers, the connection between social media and drug use is cause for concern. While it may be scary, there are some things you can do to help mitigate these risks for your child.

Some possible ways to protect your child include:

  • Limiting time online
  • Monitoring internet use
  • Talking about the dangers of drug and alcohol abuse
  • Practicing open communication
  • Paying attention to behavioral changes
  • Addressing problems early

If you believe your child may already have a problem with drugs or alcohol, do not wait to get them help. The longer you wait to act, the worse off your child may be and the more danger they may be in. Our drug and alcohol treatment center in Philadelphia helps young adults work through their substance abuse problems so that they can lead happier and healthier problems.




If your child or someone else you care about has a substance abuse problem, at Banyan Philadelphia, we want to help. Call us today at 888-280-4763 to speak with an admissions specialist and learn more.


Sources & References:

  1. JAH - Social Media and Substance Use: What Should We Be Recommending to Teens and Their Parents?
  2. Science Direct - Friends' Alcohol-Related Social Networking Site Activity Predicts Escalations in Adolescent Drinking: Mediation by Peer Norms
  3. Wiley Online - Meta‐Analysis of the Association of Alcohol‐Related Social Media Use with Alcohol Consumption and Alcohol‐Related Problems in Adolescents and Young Adults
  4. NCBI - Social Drinking on Social Media: Content Analysis of the Social Aspects of Alcohol-Related Posts on Facebook and Instagram

 

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Alyssa
Alyssa
Alyssa is Banyan’s Director of Digital Marketing & Technology. After overcoming her own struggles with addiction, she began working in the treatment field in 2012. She graduated from Palm Beach State College in 2016 with additional education in Salesforce University programs. A part of the Banyan team since 2016, Alyssa brings over 5 years of experience in the addiction treatment field.