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The Link Between Social Media, Mental Health, and Drug Abuse



Social media is a powerful tool for connecting people from around the world. But how does it affect your mental health and drug abuse risk? 

This post will explore how your social media use affects your mental health, what you can do about it, and why we should all be more mindful of our online presence.


Table of Contents

Social media affects mental health in many ways

  • Social media can be addictive
  • Social media can trigger depression and anxiety
  • Social media can cause isolation
  • Social media makes people feel inadequate, which leads to them posting more and more, creating what’s known as a “Facebook addiction” or “Facebook dependency” that drives the need for more likes, comments, shares, and followers. The result is what experts call an “invisible cycle of addiction” that can lead to relapse.


1. Online support groups can be helpful, but they can also be harmful

There are several ways online support groups may prove to be detrimental. For example, some people rely too much on these sites and do not seek out other types of help or resources. 

This can cause them to stay in toxic relationships or situations for longer than necessary.

Additionally, many people find that there is a lot of negativity within the forums themselves. 

This may worsen your mental health if you are a sensitive person who takes things personally or has had negative experiences with negative behavior from others. 

Finally, some forums are not moderated well at all and people tend to post very inappropriate things that can be triggering for others who have experienced similar trauma before (e.g., sexual assault).


2. Social media can make teens feel inadequate

Social media has the power to make us feel inadequate. With so many people posting selfies and boasting about their successes, it can be easy to compare yourself with others’ lives and wonder if you’re measuring up. 

For example, if your friend is a model for a popular clothing brand and posts pictures of herself in a bikini on Instagram all summer long, that may lead you to think that somehow, she has better life than you do

—even though she might have just been paid to wear the swimsuit in question.

While social media can make teens feel like they are missing out on something important (or even just fun), those feelings can also lead them down dangerous paths: 

drug abuse is one potential consequence of feeling left behind by friends or family members online or off.


3. Social media encourages isolation and anxiety

You can access the entire world with only a few taps on your screen. You can send messages to anyone in your address book, browse through endless images and videos, find out what’s happening around the globe in real-time, or connect with friends who live far away. 

Social media has become an important part of many people’s lives—but it can also have negative effects on some users.

Social media makes us feel more isolated.

While connecting with people online may seem like a great way to keep up with those who are far away from you geographically, it has been shown that this connection does not replace face-to-face interactions (Hoyt et al., 2017). 

The social comparison aspect of looking at others’ posts on Instagram or Twitter may make you feel inferior about yourself as well as increase anxiety about how other people perceive you (Ferrari & Vosgerau, 2017).


4. Social media can trigger the mental cycle of addiction and relapse

You may have heard that social media can be a trigger for addiction and relapse. But what does that mean?

To understand how social media can contribute to addiction and relapse, you need to know more about how the mental cycle of addiction works. The mental cycle of addiction is a three-step process: 

1) craving 

2) use 

3) negative consequences/relapse. 

During the first step of this process, you experience strong cravings for drugs or alcohol and begin thinking about them at random times throughout your day (for example: late at night while watching television). 

At some point during this phase, you might feel tempted to act on those cravings by actually consuming your drug of choice or going out drinking with friends who also use drugs or alcohol. 

This leads to step three

—negative consequences/relapse—when these actions lead back into an environment where drug use is present (like parties), which could cause an immediate return back into the first stage of craving again!


Way forward: There are ways to reduce social media's negative impact on your mental health

There are ways to reduce social media’s negative impact on your mental health.

  • Take breaks from social media. Try unplugging for a day or two each week, and see how you feel. You’ll likely find yourself less stressed and more productive after taking a break from the noise of social media.
  • Limit time spent on social media. Use apps like Momentum and AppDetox that help monitor your time spent online and alert you when it’s time to stop using your phone or computer for the day (or night). If you’re feeling overwhelmed by too many notifications, turn off notifications in settings so they don’t distract you while working or sleeping; only turn them back on when necessary—like when someone has sent you a message directly through an app like Messenger that requires an active notification setting to continue receiving messages from them.
  • Be selective about what you post online: If posting something makes me uncomfortable or anxious about what others might think about me, I won’t post it at all! And if I do decide to share something personal with my friends who follow me on Instagram (or anywhere else), then I make sure not to mention any identifying details—like where exactly I live so strangers can’t easily find me via Google Maps search results!



Social media can be an amazing tool for people to connect, but it can also be harmful in many ways. 

It’s important to know what you’re getting into before diving into the digital world and its many pitfalls so that you can set yourself up for success. 

If you find yourself struggling with social media addiction or other mental health issues related to your use of this technology, I hope that this article has given you some insight into how these two things are connected—and what steps might help alleviate those struggles!


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