Excessive use of social media and drug abuse are LINKED: Scientists find people who take cocaine and heroin and more likely to be hooked on Facebook or Instagram

  • Scientists conducted gambling experiment to assess their decision-making  
  • The worse people performed, the more excessively they used social media 
  • Study shows connection between social media use and risky decision making
  • These characteristics are a common feature of people who abuse substances

Social media addicts exhibit the same risky decision-making behaviour as people who are drug addicts, according to a new study. 

Researchers conducted a gambling experiment and found that the worst performers tended to be those hooked on social media sites such as Facebook. 

The study shows a link between the precarious habits of people who abuse drugs and people who are hooked on sites like Instagram and Facebook. 

A link has been found between excessive use of social media and behaviour seen in drug addicts. US scientists conducting a gambling experiment found that the worst performers tended to be those hooked on social media sites such as Facebook (stock image)

They hope to motivate health professionals in the field to take social media overuse seriously and shine a light on the negative impact it has on mental health.

Lead researcher Dr Dar Meshi, from Michigan State University, said: ‘Around one-third of humans on the planet are using social media, and some of these people are displaying maladaptive, excessive use of these sites.   

Dr Meshi’s team first asked 71 participants to take part in a survey designed to measure their psychological dependence on Facebook. 

Questions asked about their pre-occupation with the platform, their feelings when unable to use it, attempts to quit the site, and the impact Facebook had on their jobs or studies. 

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Participants were then asked to take part in the Iowa Gambling Task, a method of assessing decision-making and risky behaviour widely used by psychologists.

The task involves identifying outcome patterns in decks of cards to choose the best possible deck. 

The researchers found that the worse people performed by choosing from bad decks, the more excessively they were likely to use social media. 

Those who did better at the task were less social media dependent. 

The results mirrored those from other studies showing that people who abuse heroin, cocaine or methamphetamine produce similar outcomes in the gambling task.

The study shows a link between the risky habits of people who abuse drugs such as cocaine and heroin and high social media use. Researchers, from Michigan State University, hope to motivate health professionalsto take social media overuse seriously (stock image)

‘Decision making is oftentimes compromised in individuals with substance use disorders,’ said Dr Meshi. 

‘They sometimes fail to learn from their mistakes and continue down a path of negative outcomes. 

‘But no one previously looked at this behaviour as it relates to excessive social media users, so we investigated this possible parallel between excessive social media users and substance abusers. 

‘While we didn’t test for the cause of poor decision-making, we tested for its correlation with problematic social media use. 

‘I believe that social media has tremendous benefits for individuals, but there’s also a dark side when people can’t pull themselves away. 

‘We need to better understand this drive so we can determine if excessive social media use should be considered an addiction.’ 

The findings are published in the Journal of Behaviour Addictions. 


A supplement derived from cannabis may help alcohol and cocaine addicts overcome their cravings, research suggested in March 2018.

Recovering rats given cannabidiol (CBD) are less likely to relapse when exposed to drugs, a study, by the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, California, found.

This is thought to be due to the supplement easing anxiety and stress, as well as reducing impulsive behaviour, according to the researchers.

After just three days of receiving CBD, recovering rats are still less likely to relapse five months later, the study found.

The researchers hope the findings will assist in the development of treatments to prevent human drug relapses.

CBD is a cannabis-derived nutritional supplement that is thought to possess a range of medicinal benefits and has been reported to help people suffering from migraines, psoriasis, acne and depression.

Legal in the UK, it does not contain any THC, which is the psychoactive component of marijuana that makes users ‘high’.

Speaking of the findings, lead author Dr Friedbert Weiss said: ‘The efficacy of the CBD to reduce reinstatement in rats with both alcohol and cocaine – and, as previously reported, heroin – histories predicts therapeutic potential for addiction treatment across several classes of abused drugs.

‘The results provide proof of principle supporting the potential of CBD in relapse prevention along two dimensions: beneficial actions across several vulnerability states and long-lasting effects with only brief treatment


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