We’ve known for many years that young adults’ alcohol and drug use is influenced by their peers. It turns out this holds true in an online environment as well. The latest publication from the Virtual Networks Study, found in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, reveals that the images and updates on one’s social networking site are associated with alcohol and other drug (AOD) use.

Using web-based, respondent-driven sampling, the PRC/MI’s Dr. Sarah Stoddard and her colleagues explored the relationship between young adults’ attitudes regarding AOD, the quantity of AOD content online (e.g., pictures, wall posts), and alcohol and marijuana use.

The results revealed that the number of alcohol-related posts on a person’s social networking profile corresponded with frequency of alcohol use. The more pictures and posts on their site, the greater the self-reported alcohol use. The Internet played a protective role as well. The results indicated that if the participant was likely to consider the consequences of posting images of drug and alcohol use online (anticipated regret), the less likely they were to use. Other associated factors included peer substance use and online and off-line support.

The Virtual Networks Study was conducted in partnership with the Sexuality and Health Lab (SexLab).

Article Citation:
Stoddard, S. A., Bauermeister, J. A., Gordon-Messer, D., Johns, M., & Zimmerman, M. A. (2012). Permissive norms and young adults’ alcohol and marijuana use: The role of online communities. Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, 73(6), 968–975. Read the full article [PDF]

Read the press release from UM News Service:
http://www.ns.umich.edu/new/releases/20877-peer-influence-facebook-twitter-alcohol-and-drugs

For more information:
The Virtual Networks Study – http://prc.sph.umich.edu/research/virtual-networks-study/
SexLab – http://sexlab.sph.umich.edu