Sleep deprivation influences drug use in teens' social networks

( -- Recent studies have shown that behaviors such as happiness, obesity, smoking and altruism are "contagious" within adult social networks. In other words, your behavior not only influences your friends, but also their friends and so on. Researchers at the University of California, San Diego and Harvard University have taken this a step farther and found that the spread of one behavior in social networks - in this case, poor sleep patterns - influences the spread of another behavior, adolescent drug use.

The study, 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 , will be published March 19 in .

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

Using social network data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, Mednick and her colleagues James H. Fowler, UCSD Department of Political Science and Nicholas A. Christakis, Harvard Medical School, mapped the social networks of 8,349 adolescents in grades 7 through 12. They found clusters of poor sleep behavior and marijuana use that extended up to four degrees of separation (to one's friends' friends' friends' ) in the social network.

Another novel network effect that they discovered was that teens who are at the center of the network are at greater risk of poor sleep, which in turn means they are more likely to use marijuana - putting them at the crossroads of two behaviors increases a teenager's vulnerability.

Contrary to the general assumption that drug use has a negative effect on sleep, the researchers also found that 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. They should be promoting healthy sleep habits that eliminate behaviors which interfere with sleep: take the TV out of the child's bedroom, limit computer and phone usage to daytime and early evening hours, and promote napping."

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Citation: Sleep deprivation influences drug use in teens' social networks (2010, March 20) retrieved 20 July 2019 from
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Mar 20, 2010
Classic case of correlation does not imply causation.

Teenagers not sleeping well and smoking pot! Ya don't say! Imagine what they will think when they find out how horny they are. Then it will be the lack of sleep and drug use that causes them to be sex-crazed.

Mar 20, 2010
Classic case of correlation does not imply causation.
Try again.

There's mention of clusters, and correlation across close acquaintances. They aren't talking about the broad general population of teenagers; they are describing significant variations within that population, and how there's a pattern to those variations.

Mar 21, 2010
In my experience marijuana use can be a driver for poor sleep patterns rather than the converse. Marijuana is often held to increase feelings of tiredness, and undoubtedly with some types of dope and use patterns it can; however my personal experience, which I believe is backed up by research, is that the stronger, more THC (as opposed to CBD) biased strains increase heart rate and feelings of anxiety which can sometimes make it difficult to sleep naturally.

Mar 23, 2010
Birds of a feather flock together. Like minds are drawn to like things and feed on each other. These folks are making a big leap. I think its normal peer pressure not sleep disorders. Almost sounds like apologetic excuses for many modern ills like parental abandonment. Parents might live with kids and young adults but dont interact much at all or have much wisdom to share since the destruction of the Walton's like family units. Asians have extended families that are thriving. We on the other hand have obliterated the extended family unit and even redefined what a family is and are in free fall moraly and in behavior like every empire and world power in the past.

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