Social networking sites may hamper the recovery of teens who are being treated for drug use.
Not only are social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter addictive themselves, it has also been found that there is a link between using Facebook and the use of drugs, specifically marijuana as well as alcohol abuse, among teens.
A study conducted by the University of California, Los Angeles, indicates that teens who are being treated for substance abuse and who use online social networking sites like Facebook, MySpace and Twitter may be at an increased risk of having a relapse. The study hoped to find out if social networking with families and friends will expose recovering teens to signs relating to drug use and if these signs will have any effect on their recovery.
The study involved 37 adolescents who were enrolled in an East Los Angeles substance abuse treatment program. The participants were asked to complete a questionnaire regarding the use of social networking sites.
Over 90 percent of the participants in the study admitted to using social networking sites. Out of the 90 who said they used social networking sites, 75 percent of the girls and 50 percent of the boys reported catching site of references to drugs on the sites and that these references elicited a desire to use drugs. The findings of this study are consistent with other studies that have discovered that teens are very greatly susceptible to being swayed by other people in their environment, be it online or in person.
But because the number of participants was low, the findings of this research are preliminary. It is necessary to conduct a study that involved a greater number of participants to find out if the findings are conclusive.
According to the study author, David Tran, a graduate student in the Medical Education program, preventing teens who are undergoing treatment for drug abuse from accessing social media sites is impossible because they would surely find a way to get to these sites. There are some sober living California institutions that provide internet access to their residents (and therefore possible access to these social networks). Tran says that instead of banning the use of these sites, he would rather see these social media networks become instruments in drug treatment programs. One way to do this is to create private Facebook groups that will provide support to the patients in recovery, a well as havegroup leaders who post optimistic and encouraging messages that can help in the recovery process.
Another way is to request the teens to give up using social networking sites voluntarily while they are in treatment, much like the 12-step programs wherein participants are asked to keep their distance from or dissociate from people, places and objects that are related to their substance abuse.
In a study conducted in 2011 by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University, it was discovered that social media is linked to substance abuse even for teens who are not undergoing treatment. The study involved 1,000 teenagers. 70 percent of the participants admitted to using social media sites everyday. These teens were twice as likely to smoke marijuana and three times as likely to abuse alcohol compared to their peers who reported that they do not use these websites.