Teens Openly Chat About Drugs and Alcohol Online, Study Finds

Categories: Alcohol, Drugs, News, Parenting, Research, Substance Use

Caron Treatment Centers, a nonprofit alcohol and drug treatment center in Pennsylvania, commissioned a study by Nielsen BuzzMetrics to see what teens talk about online. The results of the study were released on June 19th.

According to USA Today, a computer program was used to search blogs, message boards, public chat rooms and “other places that attract teens.” The results of the study showed that approximately 2% of the posts they searched mentioned alcohol or drugs specifically.

The study gives parents insight into what their teens are talking about while online. Those teens that talked about drugs and alcohol told stories about sexual liaisons while being drunk or high, traded information about using specific illicit substances and even debated drug legalization and the drinking age. Code words were often used to disguise the substances they chatted about. According to one 19 year old quoted in the USA Today story, he used to call cocaine “yay” or “cocoa” and referred to heroin as “skag.”

“What kids used to learn about drugs on street corners, they now learn online,” says Carol Falkowski, director of research communications for Hazelden Foundation in Minnesota. The Internet “erases geographic and social boundaries,” she says. “Kids who live in remote areas can develop a camaraderie online of drug-abusing kids. They can share stories about drug experiences.”

The problem, of course, is that the Internet carries a lot of misinformation about alcohol and drugs. Caron Treatment Centers says they now urge parents to keep the family computer in a common room and monitor their teens’ Internet surfing.

Here are some interesting findings from the study regarding teen girls:

  • In messages where gender was identifiable, more teen girls than boys discussed alcohol (23% vs. 14% respectively).
  • Within the alcohol discussions where gender was identifiable, girls talked more about romantic relationships, hooking up and having sex. Boys focused on exchanging information and telling drinking stories.
  • In messages where gender was identifiable, more teen girls than boys discussed marijuana (33% vs. 17% respectively).
  • Within the marijuana discussions where gender was identifiable, girls talked more about the image associated with smoking as well as how smoking marijuana affected their romantic relationships and friendships. Boys focuses on their smoking experiences and debated the legal status and health effects of marijuana.

Read the USA Today story, “Study: Drug chat pervasive online”

See Caron Treatment Center’s full report, “A Qualitative Study of Online Discussions About Teen Alcohol & Drug Use” (pdf)

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