Are you wondering how social media influences teen drug abuse? Well, if you’re the parent of an adolescent, you need to not only ask that question — you need to find the answer as well. What you discover will help you preserve your child’s health and protect him or her from addiction.
Based on surveys conducted as part of its Internet & American Life Project, the Pew Research Center reports that 95% of teens ages 12 to 17 use the Internet and 81% of the same age group uses social media. Columbia University’s National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse reports that teenagers who typically spend any length of time on social networking sites every day are more likely to smoke, consume alcohol and take drugs compared to teens who don’t use social media daily.
Additionally, the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse’s study says that 90% of teens are initially exposed to pictures of their peers drinking, using drugs or passing out on social media before they reach the age of 15 years old. Teens who are exposed to these types of images are three times likelier to consume alcohol, and it’s four times as likely that they’ll use marijuana. Just as disturbingly, these teens are able to access mind-altering substances, including prescription drugs, more readily than teens who don’t use social media. These teenagers are also more likely to have friends who abuse prescription and illegal drugs.
The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse further reports that 90% of American adults who are considered addicts began smoking, drinking or using drugs prior to turning 18 years old. The younger someone is when he begins using an addictive substance, the more likely he is to become addicted. Twenty-five percent of Americans who start using an addictive substance before 18 years of age become addicted, while only one out of every 25 Americans who starts using an addictive substance after the age of 21 becomes addicted.
Peer Pressure on Social Media
The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse reports that 87% of parents don’t believe that social media will increase the likelihood that their kids will drink, and 89% feel that using social media won’t increase the chances that their children will use drugs.
Even though the majority of parents may not appreciate the impact that social media platforms can have on their children’s willingness to consume alcohol, use tobacco and use drugs, the majority of teens are influenced by social networking websites. In fact, 75% of teens ages 12 to 17 claim that seeing pictures on social media depicting their friends and schoolmates using drugs motivated them to mimic the behavior.
In order to protect your child from the undue influence of social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, you have to acknowledge that the use of social media can lead to both positive and negative results for your child. For example, your teen may receive congratulations from his Facebook friends for throwing a winning touchdown. Unfortunately, your child may also think it’s a good idea to try an alcoholic beverage because she saw a photo of one of her classmates drinking a beer on a social networking site. Just as alarmingly, your teen may experience peer pressure to engage in drug or tobacco use on social media and may even be cyber bullied until they give in to that pressure.
Impact of Social Media
Columbia University’s National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse reports that 19% of teens between the ages of 12 and 17 are the victims of cyber bullying. When compared to non-victims, these teens are significantly more likely to use tobacco, alcohol and marijuana. Social media and cyber bullying in particular can make your teen more susceptible to smoking, drinking and using illegal and/or prescription drugs. There are things you can do to mitigate the influence social media has on your child’s behavior, however.
Here are some actions you can take to minimize the effects of what your children see and read on social media:
- Access your teen’s social media accounts and monitor your child’s online activity regularly.
- Get to know your kid’s physical and virtual friends. Discourage your child from maintaining relationships with individuals who promote undesirable behavior like drinking.
- Limit the amount of time your teenager spends on social networking sites. This will lessen the chances that your child will be exposed to negative images and written messages.
- Maintain an open dialogue with your child and discuss the perils of smoking, drinking and using drugs.
To fully appreciate how critical it is for you to be aware of what your teenager is doing online, you need to understand what addiction is and what the consequences of this disease are. These are the things you’re trying to protect your child from, after all. You also need to be familiar with the warning signs that might indicate your child has fallen prey to addiction. Finally, you need to know where to get help.
What Addiction Is and Isn’t
Put simply, addiction is a chronic brain disease that causes a person to compulsively engage in behaviors such as using drugs, even though the individual knows the behavior isn’t healthy or safe. Addiction is widely viewed as a brain disease because drugs alter the structure of the brain and how it functions. Over time, addiction takes a physical toll on the areas of the brain that are necessary for exercising sound judgment, making decisions, learning, remembering things and having self-control. These physical alterations to the brain may be responsible for the uncontrollable compulsion involved with addiction.
While some may argue that addiction is a physiological problem instead of a neurological one, there is no debate when it comes to what addiction is not. Addiction is not a sign of weakness or a lack of self-control. The more a person uses a drug or engages in an addictive behavior, the less control the individual has to stop using the drug in that particular manner. This means an addict is not deliberately choosing to use drugs. Using drugs simply becomes something the person “has to do” over time.
Addiction is not something that defines a person’s character. Cancer patients aren’t inherently bad people because of the disease they’re suffering from, and neither are people who suffer from addiction.
Addiction is not a reflection on you or your parenting abilities. If your teenager experiences addiction, his or her illness is not a sign that you’re a horrible person or that you’ve failed as a parent.
Causes of Addiction
There is no universal reason that causes people to become addicts. Many things can influence a person’s decision to try addictive substances, and just as many factors prevent others from doing the same. Everyone is exposed to risk factors that increase the likelihood they’ll suffer from addiction. People are also exposed to protective factors that decrease the likelihood they’ll develop a dependency on an addictive substance or behavior, too.
Common risk factors for addiction that affect adolescents include the following:
- No parental supervision or involvement
- An academic environment in which drugs are available
- An impoverished living environment
- Experience experimenting with drugs or alcohol
- Undeveloped social skills
- Exhibition of aggressive behavior as a youth
Protective factors include the following:
- Active parental supervision and involvement
- A drug-free learning environment
- A stable living environment that instills pride
- Academic proficiency
- Maintenance of positive relationships with others
- Ability to exercise self-control
In addition to the risk and protective factors mentioned above, there are many other factors that influence a person’s tendency to develop an addiction. An individual’s genetic makeup is responsible for 40% – 60% of his or her susceptibility to becoming an addict, for example. The age at which a person initially engages in an addictive behavior is also a key indicator of whether or not that individual will eventually suffer from addiction. In general, the earlier a person starts to use drugs, the more likely he or she is to develop an addiction. Even the manner in which a person administers a drug can influence whether or not the person will become addicted. Smoking or injecting a drug increases the likelihood the substance will become addictive to a user, for instance.
The connection between social media and teen drug use is one that can influence your adolescent’s interest in using tobacco or drugs and drinking alcohol. While social media is not directly responsible for people becoming addicted to a given substance or behavior, certain images and messages posted on social networking sites affect how children perceive potentially addictive behaviors. For example, seeing pictures of their classmates smoking marijuana may make your kids start to believe that getting high is socially acceptable, even though you’ve taught them otherwise throughout their childhood.
As mentioned earlier, a large percentage of teens claim that seeing pictures on social media depicting their friends and schoolmates using drugs motivated them to engage in the same or similar behaviors.
Symptoms of Addiction
Just as there isn’t one single trigger that causes people to engage in addictive behaviors, there is more than one symptom that may indicate your children are suffering from addiction. Some symptoms of addiction are very similar to behavior that adolescents may engage in because they’re experiencing hormonal changes, feeling frustrated with a situation at school or simply having a bad day. Keeping a line of communication with your children open at all times will help you to determine if a given behavior is the result of addiction or if there’s another explanation for it.
Common symptoms of addiction include the following, among others:
- Difficulties at School: Some of the difficulties that may indicate your adolescent is suffering from addiction include skipping school or cutting classes regularly. A loss of interest in after-school activities and/or schoolwork may indicate a problem exists as well. If your child has historically gotten good grades but suddenly starts to earn poor marks, it may also be a sign that they’re suffering from addiction.
- Lifestyle Changes: As they become increasingly addicted, people experiencing addiction tend to push away the people who are closest to them over time. This is because those people are most likely to notice that an addict has a problem, meaning they are the ones best prepared to “catch” an addict. In addition to distant or destroyed relationships, other lifestyle changes you should be aware of include a new disinterest in social activities, altered sleep patterns, increased or decreased energy levels and personality changes that make it difficult to get along with others. If your children suddenly refuse to let you in their rooms or tell you where they’re headed with friends, it may be a sign they’re experiencing addiction.
- Alterations to Appearance: Sudden weight loss or gain can be a symptom of addiction. Of course, changes in a person’s appetite go hand-in-hand with this symptom. If your teenager is experiencing addiction, they may not be attentive to grooming regularly, wearing clean clothes daily or looking presentable in general.
- Excessive Spending: No matter what substance a person is addicted to, it generally takes money to buy. If your children are suddenly asking you for more money more frequently, it could be an indication that they have a problem with an addictive substance. You should keep an eye on the cash you keep on-hand to make sure your kids aren’t stealing money for purchasing drugs. If you think one of your children is suffering from addiction, you’ll also need to keep track of the items you have in your home to ensure they’re not being sold to support an addictive habit.
The specific symptoms a person demonstrates will vary based on multiple factors, including the type of drug they are using. For example, if your child has used marijuana recently, he may have red eyes, impaired coordination, excessive appetite and a slower-than-usual reaction time. If she’s recently used a stimulant such as meth, she may ramble or speak very quickly, act aggressively and have dilated pupils. She may experience insomnia, paranoia and an increase in heart rate as well. If he’s snorted the stimulant known as cocaine, he may also have increased nasal congestion or a bloody nose.
If you’ve determined that your teenager has a problem with addiction, you need to get help. The longer your teen is addicted and abusing drugs, the harder it will be for him to overcome the addiction. Unfortunately, people who abuse drugs earlier in life are much more likely to have problems with drugs later in life, too. This is why it is so important to be aware of what your teen is doing and get her the help she needs before addiction gets out of hand.
What causes people to become addicted to something varies by individual. The symptoms of addiction vary by person and the drug the individual uses. What doesn’t vary, however, is that people struggling with an addiction problem need and deserve help. More accurately, they deserve the best help available, which is exactly what 12 Keys Rehab provides.
If you or your loved one is struggling with drug addiction, contact 12 Keys Rehab for immediate assistance. Like our current, former and future clients, you’re not alone in battling addiction either.