Tuesday, December 6, 2022

Feds Want To Know: Are Teens Replacing Drugs With Smartphones?

For the past decade, studies demonstrate that teenagers are using drugs at a lower rate and experts have struggled to pinpoint the reason.

But a report published in Tueday’s New York Times suggests an answer that, at first blush, seems preposterous: Smartphones.


Before you laugh it off as click bait, you should know that Nora Volkow, the director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, agrees with the hypothesis. In fact Volkow told the New York Times that she soon plans to conduct research on the connection and will convene a group of scholars next month to discuss it.

“Something is going on,” Dr. Volkow told the Times. She called interactive media “an alternative reinforcer” to drugs, adding that “teens can get literally high when playing these games.”

According to the Times report by Matt Richtel:

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.

A report released in January — “Monitoring the Future,” an annual government-funded study that measures teen drug use— revealed 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.

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,”  Martins told the Times, but added of the theory: “It still needs to be proved.”

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