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Social media: A powerful tool to prevent substance abuse

Social media: A powerful tool to prevent substance abuse

Social media: A powerful tool to prevent substance abuse

January 31st, 2017 | ASAH Team

The Internet has changed the way we access, comprehend and share information. News and updates are shared in real time, and it often becomes difficult to keep up with the frenetic pace. Social media has brought about a new dimension to information dissemination. It is interactive, allows sharing of photos, videos and emoticons, and most importantly, provides a forum to voice opinions, discuss issues and advocate causes. Connectivity to social media is especially very high among teenagers, largely due to proliferation of mobile devices and easy accessibility to the internet.

Social media interactions have become powerful tools to analyze behaviors and trends. Updates and photos related to drugs, alcohol and tobacco are regularly posted on social media. In fact, partying holding has become the new ‘cool’ thing and people constantly update their social media handles with photos of partying and holding glasses of wine or champagne. By analyzing this information over a period of time, behavioral scientists can draw inferences regarding usage patterns and risks associated with alcohol and substance use.

According to Dr. Wen-ying (Sylvia) Chou, program director in National Cancer Institute’s Health Communications and Informatics Research Branch, “Social media has the potential to fill important gaps in our current understanding of tobacco, alcohol and drug use and to improve the efficacy of substance abuse interventions. For example, user-generated social media interactions can reveal important insights into substance use patterns and various social factors.”

Understanding the usage patterns, an effective social media campaign can be designed to prevent substance abuse targeting people from all sections of society and different age-groups. In fact, social media can play an important role in generating awareness about the side effects of addiction and potential strategies to curb cravings and seeking treatment.

Using social media to spread awareness on prevention and treatment

When it comes to using social media, multiple possibilities are available. An awareness campaign, to be fully effective in its reach and intent, should include the following elements:

  • Definite objectives: It is important to be clear about what is hoped to be achieved by using social media in substance abuse prevention. Both near-term and longer-term objectives need to be defined so that a broad range of issues can be addressed.
  • Clearly-defined participants: A successful social media awareness drive should involve the participation of individuals with diverse experience, skills and age. Teenagers and young adults are considered social media wizards; people with significant technology experience are also must-haves. Individuals who are motivated and dedicated to the cause can make a big difference to the awareness initiatives.
  • Presentation: Messages should be presented in a manner which is easily understood by everyone. Social media thrives on casual and spontaneous interactions. Images and videos are known to be several times more impactful than long-winding text. Good branding is a must.
  • Target audience: Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, Snapchat, YouTube and Blogger are some of the more popular platforms, but each of them targets different users. Thorough analysis of the target audience will determine the selection of appropriate platform(s) to generate awareness.
  • Interactive subject matter: Social media is characterized by online discussions and commentary. Promoting drug prevention on social media will invite positive and negative reactions and perceptions. Dealing with all this can be onerous; however, the high outreach and collaborative nature of social media will be more beneficial than other means of communication.

Prevention through social media is the way forward

In October 2014, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) announced 11 awards to fund research on using social media as a tool to understand, prevent and treat drug abuse and addiction. The awards, totaling $11 million, was funded through the Collaborative Research on Addiction (CRAN), an association of three institutes which are part of the NIH.

While social media is a powerful tool to generate awareness on prevention and treatment of drug abuse, it is also an important factor in encouraging early adoption of drugs, alcohol or other harmful substances to self-medicate. Spending too much time on social media is also a sign of mental illnesses such as anxiety and depression. Parents should keep a track on the information that their child is consuming and the people they are connected with.

If you know someone who is suffering from substance abuse, you can get in touch with the Arizona Substance Abuse Helpline representatives who can refer you to some of the best substance abuse treatment centers in Arizona. You can chat online with experts or call at our 24/7 helpline number 866-857-5777 to get details about effective treatment in a substance abuse rehab clinic in Arizona.

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