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Study Finds Internet Addiction Could be Warning Sign of Substance Use in Teens

A new study found that teens with "pathologic internet use" are more likely to have used illicit substances. The research also points toward "some common personality characteristics" among adolescents who are addicted to the internet and have a history of substance abuse.

Published in the March issue of the Journal of Addiction Medicine, Greek researchers surveyed all of the adolescents on the Greek island of Kos regarding internet use, substance use and personality factors. They found that as the severity of the internet addiction increased, so did the likelihood of substance abuse.

From the abstract:

We present results from a cross-sectional study of the entire adolescent student population aged 14 to 18 years of the island of Kos, on the correlates between personality, illicit chemical substance use, and Internet abuse. Results demonstrate that adolescents who have used illicit substances and are abusing the Internet as well appear to share some common personality characteristics, namely those that are classified under the label of “psychoticism” in the Eysenck's personality model. An increase in the severity of pathological Internet use has been linked to increased chances of having used an illicit substance. Taking into account any common personality attributes, Internet addiction can still be useful as a predictor variable for substance use experiences. Future research should attempt to verify any biological common factors between chemical substances use and Internet abuse. Targeting the adolescent population that engages in increased Internet use may be of benefit for drug abuse prevention programs.

It's important to note that for the purposes of the study, internet addiction went beyond heavy internet use to include losing track of time spent online, neglecting other activities and having difficulty cutting down on internet use.

Liz Wu is a Digital Accounts Manager at Prichard Communications, where she oversees digital outreach for Reclaiming Futures and edits Reclaiming Futures Every Day. Before joining the Prichard team, Liz established the West Coast communications presence for the New America Foundation, where she managed all media relations, event planning and social media outreach for their 6 domestic policy programs. Liz received a B.A. in both Peace and Conflict Studies and German from the University of California at Berkeley. She tweets from @LizSF.




*Photo at top from Flickr user zadoc