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Does Social Networking Encourage Addictive Behavior?

It’s no secret that young adults spend a lot of time engaged in social media– teens and college students, after all, were the first adopters of Facebook. So it’s fair to wonder about the influence of social networks in triggering or reinforcing risky behavior or compromising addiction recovery. In its annual back-to-school survey of students, CASA (Columbia University’s National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse) followed an ongoing trend: alcohol and drug depictions in social media. As the 2012 survey reports, “75 percent of 12- to 17-year olds say that seeing pictures of teens partying with alcohol or marijuana on Facebook, MySpace or another social networking site encourages other teens to want to party like that.”

Pictures, videos or descriptions of peers drunk, high or passed out have influenced behavior to the point where teens who view such depictions on social pages are four times more than their non-viewing peers to have used marijuana, and three times likelier to have used alcohol.

In CASA’s 2011 survey, nine in 10 parents didn’t think their children’s participation in social network sites increased the likelihood of their using drugs or alcohol. In addition, just 64 percent of parents reported monitoring their kids’ use of social sites.

Though Facebook has policies in place about illegal drug use, the sheer speed of social networking makes it virtually impossible to monitor every post for such depictions. And in 2013, Social Barrel reported the launch of a social site designed around drug use. Tripsit.me says it has a mission to help drug users make informed decisions, but at least one drug addiction counselor, D. J. Diebold, saw the information presented on Tripsit as unsafe and encouraging of drug use.

As a parent, you are already staying engaged with your teen’s school, family and social activity. Monitoring her online encounters can be key to determining if she is being put on a risky path.

If your child, or another loved one or friend is facing the challenge of addiction, let us provide you with the resources and support to begin the addiction recovery process.