Ed note: Researchers are trying to assess the influence of social media on adolescent drug use. The findings of the study below did not connect under-25 pro-marijuana Twitter posts with marijuana use, but the high volume of these messages, and the resulting teen exposure to them gave researchers reason for concern over the potential enticement factor. --JL
*The following is excerpted from an online article from Healio.
Study findings published in the Journal of Adolescent Health indicate the majority of tweets about marijuana were sent and received by Twitter users aged younger than 25 years.
“Many people believe marijuana use is harmless, and social media conversations almost certainly drive some of those opinions, making the drug appear socially acceptable,” study researcher Patricia A. Cavazos-Rehg, PhD, of Washington University’s Institute for Public Health, said in a press release.
Cavazos-Rehg and colleagues conducted a computer search using terms associated with marijuana consumption such as “joint,” “blunt,” and “stoner,” which identified 7.6 million tweets related to marijuana sent during a 1-month period in 2014. Researchers narrowed their search to marijuana-associated tweets sent or received by Twitter accounts with more than 775 followers and Klout scores of at least 44. The final sample had nearly 7,000 tweets.
Seventy-seven percent of tweets were pro-marijuana, 5% were anti-marijuana and 18% were neutral, according to researchers.
Accounts tweeting pro-marijuana tweets had more than 50 million Twitter followers combined, nearly 12-fold the followers who tweeted anti-marijuana messages. The majority of pro-marijuana tweets discussed alleged benefits of marijuana and encouraged its use and legalization.
Most Twitter users sending and receiving marijuana-associated tweets were aged younger than 25 years, and many were teenagers, according to the release.
“Although we cannot yet link pro-pot tweets to actual drug use, we should be worried because many people receiving these messages are at an age when they are most likely to experiment with drugs and develop problems with substance use,” Cavazos-Rehg said in the release.