How tweets may influence substance abuse in youth

In a new study from the School of Nursing, researchers characterized the content of 23 million drug-related tweets by youths to identify their beliefs and behaviors related to drug use and better understand the potential mechanisms driving substance use behavior. They found that youths expressed pride, confidence, or boastfulness online about their drug-related behaviors, often indicating a craving or desire for drugs or the effects of drug use. Their tweets rarely covered the negative consequences or effects of substance use. 

A teenager looks critically at a smartphone in their hand

“Youths’ tweets about using drugs to cope with stress, grief, and trauma may contribute to distorted perceptions of normative behavior and may encourage other youth to adopt similar coping strategies  in real life,” says lead investigator Robin Stevens, 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.”

Read more at Penn Nursing News.