Facebook and Drugs: Is There a Correlation?

August 25th, 2011

Facebook might make you a junkie. At least, that’s the conclusion some are drawing from a recent study by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA). This survey looked at the Internet and drug usage patterns of teens ages 12 to 17. It was found that teens who used social networking sites (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) at least once a day were five times more likely to drink alcohol and three times more likely to smoke marijuana than those who used the sites less frequently.

Given the wording of the study, people have been tempted to interpret a causal relationship between Facebook and substance use. However, this could be ill-advised, as the reason for this correlation was not explored in the study. Joseph Califano, the founder and chairman of CASA, argues that exposure to alcohol- and drug-related photos is the reason behind this relationship. While constantly seeing these pictures may desensitize teens to substance use, much of this correlation may come from how personality plays into social networking frequency.

Given the active role of social networking in teens’ social lives (75% of teens have a Facebook page), those who don’t use these tools may be less extroverted overall. Given that extroversion is a significant predictor of substance abuse, the relationship between Facebook use and substance ingestion may simply be a manifestation of this personality-substance use correlation.

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