Relationship Between Peer Pressure and Social Media

Social media has had a huge impact on the world and has completely changed the way we communicate. In some ways, it can be said that social media is beneficial as it allows us to stay in touch with friends and relatives whom we may not otherwise speak to. However, there is a dark side to social media sites, and it can have a negative effect on people’s lives.

Social media often promotes alcohol and drug use and also makes it easy for young people to be exposed to images of substance abuse. If other people within the same age group are promoting drinking or drug use, it makes teens much more likely to feel pressured to do the same.

It is important to understand the influence of social media on drug and alcohol use and why it can especially be a bad influence on teenagers. Learn more below.

Alcohol and drug abuse were commonly portrayed in a negative light in the traditional media of the past, and in the days before social networking sites, many people didn’t know much about substance abuse. Even the images in alcohol adverts were carefully censored to ensure they didn’t glamorise drinking.

However, if you’re a young person who logs into a social network, you’re likely to see drugs and alcohol portrayed in a positive, even aspirational way. Whether it’s someone smoking a joint, or people drinking shots and partying, there are many subtle ways in which alcohol and drugs are portrayed as fun and exciting.

It’s not just peers that teenagers see using these substances, as many celebrities often show themselves binge drinking and partying too. This makes drinking and drug abuse seem normal, and something that everyone does, perhaps even making them feel like they’re the only person who doesn’t do these things.

Another issue is that social media makes it much easier to buy drugs and stay in touch with dealers. Before social media, people usually obtained drugs from friends of friends, but it’s now possible to buy drugs on social media, with coded adverts advertising illegal and prescription drugs and even imported alcohol and cigarettes.

Young people can easily use encrypted messengers to get in touch with dealers, making it less likely that their parents or the police will find out. Social media has made drug and alcohol use much more visible to teenagers.

Drugs and Alcohol and Social Media Image

Another potential problem with social media is that it presents a very distorted view of peoples’ lives. Nobody’s life is perfect, but if you look at their Facebook or Instagram page, you see a carefully curated collection of their best images.

This can create a fear of missing out among teenagers, making it feel like everyone is doing more and having more fun than you. On many social networks, it’s not just your friends that you see having fun, but also casual acquaintances, friends of friends, or even celebrities, many of whom are posting about the great times they’re having using drugs or alcohol which may make it seem desirable.

This is why social media could be contributing to drug and alcohol abuse among teens, as the image that is portrayed about substance use can be negative and have bad impacts on young people.

Ease of Access to Alcohol and Drugs

Many social media sites now offer buying and selling pages, whether it’s a Facebook group, marketplace listings, private Tumblr pages, or even WhatsApp groups. Billions of people use these services every day, and while most listings are mundane things, a little bit of searching will soon bring you across items such as prescription and illegal drugs.

Social media sites have strict rules banning these sorts of transactions, but unfortunately, this can be difficult to moderate. Unless someone reports a group, it can easily go unnoticed, and even if the user is banned, they can easily create another free account and start again.

Facebook pages exist that can only be accessed by invitation, where drugs could be ordered to be delivered straight to someone’s door. This could be a very attractive prospect to a teenager who wants to buy alcohol or drugs but doesn’t want to go to a backstreet dealer.

Alcohol is also advertised through social media and TV which can have negative implications for impressionable teens.

Drug Access Hidden in Plain Sight

The problem with tracking things like drug dealing online is that there are often certain code words used that change all the time. While parents of teenagers can block certain shady-looking sites, many drug deals happen in plain sight on social networks that may otherwise seem harmless.

Teenagers are also more likely to know the slang involved that will bring them across drug listings. They understand the codes contained using emojis, which can include the amount and cost of drugs, something which those not in the loop wouldn’t understand. Therefore, it’s easy for drug abuse on social media to slip under the radar.

Dangers of the Dark Web

Many substance abusers also turn to the dark web to get hold of their substance of choice. A huge chunk of the content on the web isn’t accessible by mainstream search engines such as Google, and this content is often referred to as the deep or dark web. Here, criminal activity can thrive, and you can buy anything from credit card numbers to weapons, but illegal drugs are one of the most common purchases.

Unfortunately, many parents aren’t up to date with this sort of technology and may not even know that their teenager is using the dark web until they’ve developed a drug addiction. Because drugs are sent in plain packaging, any teenager with a few IT skills could potentially buy any illicit substances that they want.

Is Social Media Contributing to Drug and Alcohol Abuse?

There are, however, studies that show social media may not have a big effect on teenagers’ drink and drug use. Some studies have shown that real life outside of social media is much more likely to have an impact on whether a young person develops an addiction. Factors such as having mental health problems or a parent with an addiction can be much more influential.

The amount of time that teenagers spend online, rather than socialising, also means they use fewer drugs and alcohol than young people in the 1990s.

Social networks can also be used as a force for good. The amount of time that teenagers spend on social networks makes them hugely influential, so anti-drug and alcohol campaigns can target the most vulnerable.

Those who’ve suffered from addictions can share their negative stories, while influencers can be used to show positive images of life without drugs or alcohol. Content that’s humorous or interesting is easy to share and can go viral, making campaigns inexpensive.

An Addiction to Social Media

Social media itself can also be addictive and impact the mental health of teens, as likes and retweets have been shown to have a pleasurable effect on the brain. This addiction can also have a downside, with studies showing it can contribute to depression, insomnia, and isolation in teenagers.

There could even be a link between these kinds of behaviours and substance abuse in later life, making teenagers more vulnerable to drug addiction or alcoholism.

So, what can parents do in these situations? Monitoring and controlling your teenager’s access to social media can be a good start, although a determined teen will still find a way to access these sites.

Education and honest chats about drink and drug use are likely to be more effective, showing teenagers that the reality of addiction isn’t how it’s portrayed on social media.

It’s also important for parents to look out for the early signs of drinking or drug abuse in their teenagers, allowing them to intervene and seek professional help if necessary. From this article you should be able to tell how social media could be contributing to drug and alcohol abuse in teens – get support today if you need it.

John Gillen - Author - Last updated: October 12, 2023

John is one UK’s leading professionals in the addiction recovery industry. Pioneering new treatment techniques such as NAD+ and ongoing research into new therapy techniques such as systematic laser therapy, John is committed to providing the very best treatment for people throughout the UK and Europe. During his extremely busy schedule, John likes to regularly update our blog section with the latest news and trends in the industry to keep visitors to our site as well informed as possible on everything related to addiction treatment.