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Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Facebook Connections and College Alcohol Use

Social media can give researchers data that on scale no before thought possible. Over the last year, addiction researchers have turned to internet applications like Instagram and Facebook to gather data. If you think about it, social media acts like a window into the lives of young people; multiple times throughout the day, teenagers and young adults post their activities to such sites. Analyzing posts can help researchers establish patterns of drug and alcohol use.

At the University of Georgia, researchers have established ties between certain patterns of connections among Facebook friends and substance use among college-aged females, ScienceDaily reports. Assaf Oshri, a developmental psychologist and assistant professor in the human development and family science department within UGA’s College of Family and Consumer Sciences, researched the connection between childhood experiences and the development of risky behaviors in adolescents and young adults. The research team looked at the Facebook accounts of 318 female students enrolled at UGA.

"Leveraging social media to understand risk for addiction is a new, emerging frontier," said James MacKillop, study co-author and director of the Peter Boris Centre for Addictions Research at McMaster University in Ontario, Canada. "Platforms like Facebook provide us with new ways to characterize social networks' influences on healthy and unhealthy behavior." 

The researchers found that the “severity of child physical abuse” was associated with how central one is in their social network, and could increase the risk for alcohol abuse, according the article. The study showed that:
  • Childhood physical abuse was associated with having more densely interconnected groups of Facebook friends, a trend linked to a higher risk for alcohol use and problems.
  • Childhood sexual abuse was linked to more loosely interconnected groups of Facebook friends, dominated by a few friends, a trend linked to a decrease in alcohol use and problems.
  • The more a Facebook user's friends are also friends with one another, the greater the chance that she would misuse alcohol.
  • Students found to be “less important or less connected” with their networks peers were more likely to use alcohol.
"If you try to describe the relationship between early child abuse to risk behavior such as substance abuse, it's interesting to know that online social networks play a role in this mechanism," Oshri said. "It's important to note that this is a correlational study, not experimental, so any causal association should not be made out of this data." 

The findings appear in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs.

If you or a loved one is a college age female who has suffered from childhood abuse and is misusing drugs or alcohol, please contact Hope By The Sea. Childhood abuse can result in post traumatic stress disorders (PTSD), when coupled with substance abuse, treatment requires addressing both co-occurring disorders. Our addiction treatment team is equipped to assess and treat both issues, developing customized treatment programs that target a client’s particular needs.

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