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Social Networks Impact Sleep and Drug Use

While some may wonder where their bad habits – such as the use or abuse of illegal drugs – began, recent studies are pointing to adult social networks. According to a recent Science Daily piece, behaviors that can include happiness, smoking and even drug use are influenced by friends and the friends of friends.

Researchers at the University of California, San Diego and Harvard University found that the behavior of adolescents is especially impacted by such social networks where drugs are concerned. This study was led by Sara C. Mednick, PhD, assistant professor of psychiatry at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine and the VA San Diego Healthcare System.

“This is our first investigation of the spread of illegal drug use in social networks,” said Mednick in Science Daily. “We believe it is also the first study in any age population on the spread of sleep behaviors through social networks.”

Mednick and her colleagues used social network data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health. In this study they found clusters of poor sleep behavior and marijuana use that extended up to four degrees of separation in the social network.

This study also revealed that teens who are at the center of the network are at a greater risk of poor sleep, which in turn means they are more likely to use marijuana. This puts such individuals at a crossroads of two behaviors that increase a teen’s vulnerability.

While it is easily assumed that drug use has a negative effect on sleep, researchers also found that sleep loss is likely to drive adolescents to use drugs – the less they sleep the more likely their friends are to sleep poorly and use marijuana.

“Our behaviors are connected to each other and we need to start thinking about how one behavior affects our lives on many levels,” said Mednick. “Therefore, when parents, schools and law enforcement want to look for ways to influence one outcome, such as drug use, our research suggests that targeting another behavior, like sleep, may have a positive influence.”

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