Links between Social Behavior and Drug Use
A recent study showed a correlation between a teen’s lack of sleep and their likelihood for experimenting with drugs such as marijuana.
Teens are heavily influenced by the actions and feelings of people around them. Studies have shown that behavior patterns can spread “virally” through groups of teen friends — behaviors such as being happy, obesity or smoking can influence a teen’s friends and also multiple degrees of separation within a social network. Teens can be good or bad influences on each other, either creating positive environments or leading social groups down the path of drug abuse and addiction treatment.
Recently, researchers at the University California, San Diego and Harvard University mapped the social networks of 8,349 students in grades 7 through 12, specifically targeting the behaviors of drug use and sleep patterns. One finding was that clusters of poor sleep patterns and the type of marijuana use that leads to drug rehabs could extend to four degrees of separation within a social network (i.e. a friend’s friend’s friend’s friend.)
The study also showed an interesting correlation between a lack of sleep and drug use that could end with treatment in a drug addiction center. The study showed that teens who are at the center of a social group are at a greater risk to not get enough sleep. This, in turn, led them to be more likely to use drugs like marijuana and end up with a drug addiction that could cause them to end up in drug or alcohol rehabs.
Sara C. Mednick, PhD, assistant professor of psychiatry at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine and the VA San Diego Healthcare System, said in a press release that the study shows that behaviors are connected, and that even something as seemingly benign as teens not getting enough sleep could wind up influencing behaviors that end with them in an addiction treatment program.
“Our behaviors are connected to each other and we need to start thinking about how one behavior affects our lives on many levels,” said Sara C. Mednick, PhD, assistant professor of psychiatry at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine and the VA San Diego Healthcare System. “Therefore, when parents, schools and law enforcement want to look for ways to influence one outcome, such as drug use, our research suggests that targeting another behavior, like sleep, may have a positive influence. They should be promoting healthy sleep habits that eliminate behaviors which interfere with sleep: take the TV out of the child’s bedroom, limit computer and phone usage to daytime and early evening hours, and promote napping.”
The study challenges previous notions that drug use such as marijuana was linked to excessive sleep. These results could also change how teens are handled during their stint in an addiction program, with an extra emphasis placed on making sure teens get enough sleep.