Social media could be encouraging young people to use substances

16 September 2022

PhD candidate Brienna Rutherford from UQ’s National Centre For Youth Substance Use Research spoke to ABC about new research suggesting social media could encourage youth substance use.

Published in the journal Addiction, the study reviewed 73 studies, which covered 16 million substance-related posts across Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, Pinterest, TikTok and Weibo.

Ms Rutherford said they found 76 per cent of the posts depicted substance use positively, which was "concerning" because young people were the most vulnerable and most prolific consumers of social media — spending an average of eight hours a day online.

"People are making substance use look fun and riskless, which is the big concern because there's not a factor of what the potential harms could be," she said.

"There's evidence to show teens who are exposed to high levels of substance use are more likely to use and develop issues with alcohol, tobacco and cannabis."

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