The use of social media is ubiquitous in today's culture. A recent Pew Research report found that, among 18 to 29-year-olds, over 90 percent use some form of social media while essentially 100 percent of young Americans (ages 18-29) have mobile phones, 94 percent of which are smartphones. 

Both social media and mobile devices obviously offer benefits, such as enabling people to be more connected,  but while potential social harms such as online bullying are well-known, the long-lasting risks associated with substance use and subsequent social media posting gets less coverage. Posting on social media, texting, and appearing in photos while high is prevalent among people who use drugs, according to a study in Substance Abuse.

The scholars examined data from 872 adults surveyed while entering electronic dance music (EDM) parties in New York City who reported current or previous drug use. Participants were asked if they were ever high on a drug while they posted on social media, called or texted someone, or were in a photo. Those who had were also asked if they later regretted the behavior. 

The researchers estimate that more than a third of EDM attendees (34.3 percent) posted on social media while high, with 21.4 percent regretting it. In addition, more than half (55.9 percent) had texted or called someone while high, with 30.5 percent regretting making a call or sending a text. Nearly half (47.6 percent) had been in a photo while high, with 32.7 percent regretting it.

CLICK TO ENLARGE. Source: 10.1080/08897077.2019.163596

Females and young adults (ages 18-24) were most likely to post on social media while high and were also more likely to text, make calls, and take photos while high. Although young adults are a known high-risk demographic for substance use, females are generally considered less likely to do so than males while more likely to use social media. Black participants reported lower risk for these activities while people who were unwilling to list a sexual orientation of any kind were very likely to listen to EDM, get high, and then post it on social media.

Compared to users of other drugs, current marijuana users were at the highest risk for engaging in these risky behaviors while high, followed by current cocaine users.

"Risky social media posts, including those showing people high on drugs, have the potential to cause embarrassment, stress, and conflict for users and those in their social networks," said Joseph Palamar, PhD, MPH, the study's lead author and associate professor of Population Health at NYU School of Medicine. "It can also have adverse implications for one's career, since the majority of employers now use social media platforms to screen job candidates and may search for evidence of substance use."