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The four men were remanded in custody pending trial. Authorities have warned against drug abuse and particularly against making social media posts while being under the influence. Image Credit: Reuters

Abu Dhabi: Four young Saudis were arrested after they were caught with drugs in Hai’il, in north-western Saudi Arabia, and for posting a video clip on social media while being under the influence, police said.

The four men were remanded in custody pending trial, according to Mohammed Al Najidi, spokesperson of the Saudi General Directorate of Anti-Narcotics. Al Najidi warned against drug abuse and particularly against making social media posts while being under the influence.

Posting on social media, texting and appearing in photos while high on narcotic substances or alcohol is prevalent among people who use drugs. Many later regret such behaviour, according to a study conducted by the Centre for Drug Use and HIV/HCV Research (CDUHR) at NYU College of Global Public Health.

The research, published online on August 6, 2019, in the journal ‘Substance Abuse’, points to the potential social harms associated with substance use, which are likely overlooked and go beyond well-established health risks.

The use of social media — particularly among the youth — is ubiquitous in today’s culture.

Technology and social media

A recent Pew Research report found that in the 18-29 age group, nine in ten use some form of social media. Meanwhile, the technology that allows people to use social media anywhere is essentially universal: 100 per cent of young Americans (aged 18-29) have mobile phones, 94 per cent of which are smartphones.

While technology and social media platforms offer benefits, such as enabling people to be more connected, using mobile phones to post on social media or engage in other forms of communication also can cause long-lasting social harm, a risk that may increase when people are under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

‘Adverse implications’

“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 CDUHR researcher Joseph Palamar, PhD, MPH, the study’s lead author and an 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.”

In this study, the researchers 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 behaviour.

‘Socially harmful or embarrassing scenarios’

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

“At least one in five experienced regret after engaging in these behaviours while high, suggesting that some situations may have resulted in socially harmful or embarrassing scenarios,” said Palamar.

High-risk demographic for substance abuse

Females and young adults (18-24) were at a particularly elevated risk for posting on social media while being high and were also more likely to text, make calls and take photos while being under the influence. Although young adults are a known high-risk demographic for substance abuse, females are typically at lower risk than males. 
However, research shows that females are more likely to use social media. EDM attendees who identified as neither heterosexual, nor gay, nor bisexual were also at a higher risk for making social media posts and related behaviours while being under the influence. Separately, black participants were at a much lower risk for these activities.

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

Harm-reduction programmes

“A significant portion of our sample engaged in the use of social media, while being high and regretted it. While more research is needed, our findings suggest a need for prevention or harm-reduction programmes to educate high-risk groups not only about the adverse health effects of substance use, but also about the potential negative social outcomes,” said study coauthor Austin Le, MSc, a research associate in the NYU Langone Department of Population Health and a dental student at NYU College of Dentistry.

Avoiding texting while intoxicated

“While prevention programmes have largely focused on physical safety — for example, not driving after drinking — such programmes can also stress that using a smartphone while being high can increase the risk of someone engaging in regretful behaviour. Tactics such as using apps to prevent texting while intoxicated or delaying posting on social media until one is no longer experiencing drug effects may help to minimise social harm,” added Palamar.