Study Identifies Link Between Internet Addiction and Drug Abuse

Teenagers have many reasons to be online since the creation of social networking. No longer headed for the library, students can do virtually all of their research and homework online. For some parents, it is a challenge to distinguish between necessary Internet use and excessive levels of surfing. A new study recently published in the March issue of the Journal of Addiction Medicine provides new insight into the heightened use of the Internet. The study may cause parents to pull in the reins a bit on Internet usage. It finds that excessive Internet use was identified as a warning sign of substance abuse. The study was conducted by researchers at Aristotle University of Thessaloniki and found that when a teen exhibits pathological Internet use, they were more likely to report drug abuse. As Internet usage increased, so did the likelihood of a drug problem. In addition, the researchers found that there was a link between substance abuse, pathological Internet use and certain personality traits such as aggressiveness, recklessness and nonconformity. Study co-author Georgios Floros noted that not only were some personality traits common for substance abuse and excessive Internet use, but Internet use was a predictor of a substance use problem. To gather information, the researchers conducted a survey involving 1,271 students between the ages of 14 and 19 on the island of Kos, located in the Aegean Sea. The survey included measures of personality, Internet use and substance use. To further understand the level of Internet usage among the participants, the researchers administered a 20 question test that measured Internet addiction. The test included questions about whether students often remained online longer than they had planned, how their Internet usage affected their academic performance, and how Internet use affected their irritability levels. The researchers found that those who admitted to substance abuse in the surveys also had significantly higher scores on the Internet use test, and the scores were reliable predictors for future substance use. The study provides support for a growing body of research that point to Internet addiction as a debilitating condition with similar effects as those of other types of addiction. Just as those with substance abuse problems begin to value that substance to the detriment of every other aspect of life, those with Internet addictions may suffer a breakdown in social relationships and a lack of achievement in professional and academic aspects of life. There is currently no Internet addiction diagnosis being used as an official disorder recognized by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. However, as the Internet increasingly becomes a problem for some individuals, the need for specific criteria for diagnosis may become necessary. The study’s findings may lead to valuable tools useful in screening those seeking help for Internet addiction to test for substance abuse, offering important prevention and education services for those at an increased risk of substance abuse.

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