Raise awareness of environmental health issues in order to better protect our children and future generations.

EMF Studies

15 March 2017

Are Teenagers Replacing Drugs With Smartphones?

Alexandra Elliott, a high school senior, says she is a heavy
phone user and that using it for social media "really feels
good."  
Credit:  Jason Henry for The New York Times
“People are carrying around a portable dopamine pump, and kids have basically been carrying it around for the last 10 years,” said David Greenfield, assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at the University of Connecticut School of Medicine and founder of The Center for Internet and Technology Addiction.

Are Teenagers Replacing Drugs With Smartphones?
by Matt Richtel, The New York Times, 
13 March 2017

Amid an opioid epidemic, the rise of deadly synthetic drugs and the widening legalization of marijuana, a curious bright spot has emerged in the youth drug culture: American teenagers are growing less likely to try or regularly use drugs, including alcohol.

With minor fits and starts, the trend has been building for a decade, with no clear understanding as to why. Some experts theorize that falling cigarette-smoking rates are cutting into a key gateway to drugs, or that antidrug education campaigns, long a largely failed enterprise, have finally taken hold.

But researchers are starting to ponder an intriguing question: Are teenagers using drugs less in part because they are constantly stimulated and entertained by their computers and phones?

The possibility is worth exploring, they say, because use of smartphones and tablets has exploded over the same period that drug use has declined. This correlation does not mean that one phenomenon is causing the other, but scientists say interactive media appears to play to similar impulses as drug experimentation, including sensation-seeking and the desire for independence.

Or it might be that gadgets simply absorb a lot of time that could be used for other pursuits, including partying.

Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, says she plans to begin research on the topic in the next few months, and will convene a group of scholars in April to discuss it. The possibility that smartphones were contributing to a decline in drug use by teenagers, Dr. Volkow said, was the first question she asked when she saw the agency’s most recent survey results. The survey, “Monitoring the Future,” an annual government-funded report measuring drug use by teenagers, found that past-year use of illicit drugs other than marijuana was at the lowest level in the 40-year history of the project for eighth, 10th and 12th graders.

Use of marijuana is down over the past decade for eighth and 10th graders even as social acceptability is up, the study found. Though marijuana use has risen among 12th graders, the use of cocaine, hallucinogens, ecstasy and crack are all down, too, while LSD use has remained steady.

Even as heroin use has become an epidemic among adults in some communities, it has fallen among high schoolers over the past decade, the study found.

Those findings are consistent with other studies showing steady declines over the past decade in drug use by teenagers after years of ebbs and flows. Dr. Volkow said this period was also notable because declining use patterns were cutting across groups — “boys and girls, public and private school, not driven by one particular demographic,” she said.

“Something is going on,” Dr. Volkow added.

With experts in the field exploring reasons for what they describe as a clear trend, the novel notion that ever-growing phone use may be more than coincidental is gaining some traction.

Dr. Volkow described interactive media as “an alternative reinforcer” to drugs, adding that “teens can get literally high when playing these games.”

Dr. Silvia Martins, a substance abuse expert at Columbia University who has already been exploring how to study the relationship of internet and drug use among teenagers, called the theory “highly plausible.”

“Playing video games, using social media, that fulfills the necessity of sensation seeking, their need to seek novel activity,” Dr. Martins said, but added of the theory: “It still needs to be proved.”

No comments:

Post a Comment