Insta-Mistake: Many People Post On Social Media While High — And Regret It

NEW YORK —¬†Actively posting on social media is basically a full time job for many young adults. There is a certain amount of pressure to continue posting fun, relevant, and witty pictures and captions on an almost everyday basis. Now, a thought provoking study by New York University finds that a third of drug users continue posting on social media while under the influence, and half continue to text or make phone calls while high.

Yet across all of these scenarios, the authors say, a large portion of drug users said they regretted their actions while intoxicated.

While the health dangers and risks of illicit drugs are well documented and regularly discussed, this study raises interesting questions regarding the social and psychological consequences of drug use and its effect on users’ behaviors, especially when mixed together with social media and smartphones.

“Risky social media posts, including those showing people high on drugs, have the potential to cause embarrassment, stress, and conflict for users and those in their social networks,” says CDUHR researcher and lead author Dr. Joseph Palamar, an associate professor of Population Health at NYU School of Medicine, in a media release. “It can also have adverse implications for one’s career, since the majority of employers now use social media platforms to screen job candidates and may search for evidence of substance use.”

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The study questioned 872 young adults entering electronic dance music (EDM) parties who admitted to current or previous drug use. Participants were asked if they had ever posted on social media, spoke on the phone, texted, or been in a photo while high. Those who had, were asked if they regretted their behavior later on.

Of the EDM attendees in the study, 34.3% posted on social media while high and 21.4% said they ended up regretting their post. Over half of the participants had texted or called someone while high, and 30.5% regretted that action as well. Almost half had been in a photo while high, with 32.7% regretting it.

“At least one in five experienced regret after engaging in these behaviors while high, suggesting that some situations may have resulted in socially harmful or embarrassing scenarios,” says Palamar.

Females and young adults were found to be more at risk to post online while high, and were also more likely to call, text, or take photos while inebriated. This is especially fascinating when one considers that females are typically less at risk of drug abuse in general compared to males.

As far as specific drugs, marijuana users seemed to post on social media the most, followed by cocaine users.

Researchers say that drug prevention programs should also educate on the social and psychological consequences of narcotics use, besides just the health risks.

“While prevention programs have largely focused on physical safety — for example, not driving after drinking–such programs can also stress that using a smartphone while high can increase the risk of someone engaging in regretful behavior. Tactics such as using apps to prevent texting while intoxicated or delaying posting on social media until one is no longer experiencing drug effects may help to minimize social harm,” Palamar suggests.

The study is published in the scientific journal Substance Abuse.

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