03 Feb Facebook’s Impact on Young Adult Substance Abuse Treatment
A basic tenet of addiction treatment is to avoid friends who you used to party with lest temptation prove too great. But does this also go for socializing online? According to a study, Facebook and other social networks might actually hinder substance use disorder care for adolescents.
It is fairly well known that environmental factors, such as people and places, play into potential drug use and relapse. However, there wasn’t any research done in the area of social media providing those factors.
David Tran, a graduate student in the UCLA Program in Medical Education, decided that he wanted to study this question and see just how much Facebook and other social networking sites affected the adolescents who were currently receiving treatment. He sought out almost 40 participants aged 12 to 18 years old to participate in his survey. The majority were Latino, with an equal number of male and female participants, and 92 percent of these youth participated in some form of social networking, primarily Facebook.
Nearly half of them stated that they themselves posted content that mentioned drugs on their social media sites, and 94 percent said they saw drug-related posts on their friend’s sites. The scary statistic came when Tran discovered that 66 percent of this group stated that seeing this content on social media sites actually made them want to use drugs. Granted, these numbers are being pulled from a small, preliminary pool of data, but they seem to imply that social networking may influence adolescent treatment in an adverse way.
Sadly, only 22 percent posted, or even saw, recovery or treatment related posts. This seems like a huge missed opportunity to use the power of social networking in a positive way.
Tran had the thought to create and implement a Facebook group as a way to step in and provide treatment oriented material for teens. He mentioned the success that Alcoholics Anonymous has had with social support and maintaining participation. His hope is that it would drastically strengthen the teens’ resolve to quit due to the resources and support they’re being offered. He would also like the members of this group to create and maintain relationships with others who are around the same age and have had similar experiences.
Since most adolescents are using social media more and more, there needs to be a way to use this technology in a positive way; educating and supporting, rather than just letting it continue to harm.
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