Study reveals how Tweets may influence substance abuse in youth

Study reveals how Tweets may influence substance abuse in youth

Washington D.C: In a recent study, researchers found that youths expressed pride, confidence, or boastfulness online about their drug-related behaviours, often indicating a craving or desire for drugs or the effects of drug use.

The University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing (Penn Nursing), researchers found that the tweets by youth rarely covered the negative consequences or effects of substance use.

The study was published in the journal JMIR Public Health and Surveillance.

Researchers have characterised the content of 23 million drug-related tweets by youths to identify their beliefs and behaviours related to drug use and better understand the potential mechanisms driving substance use behaviour.

“Youths’ tweets about using drugs to cope with stress, grief and trauma may contribute to distorted perceptions of normative behaviour and may encourage other youths to adopt similar coping strategies in real life,” says lead-investigator Robin Stevens, PhD, MPH, Assistant Professor and Director of the Health Equity and Media Lab.

“These findings indicate a critical need to leverage social media to understand youth experiences and attitudes related to drug use. An in-depth, real-time understanding of youth attitudes, across diverse populations, is critical for efforts to decrease substance abuse.”

The study also defined the frequency with which drugs are discussed by members of this population on Twitter, generated a list of words and hashtags to contribute to analytical lexicons for others interested in similar research, and identified themes indicative of the ways in which youth discuss their support for (or opposition to) substance use on social media.