In a survey of young adults aged 18 to 25, more than half of those who said they smoked cigarettes also admitted to smoking pot. Prior research had indicated that only 35 percent of young people had used both within the past month. However, the study authors believe their numbers are more accurate.
The reason, the researchers claim, is that their survey was conducted anonymously online, primarily through Facebook.
“We were curious whether rates would be different in our study where we reached out through social media and the Web,” said study author Danielle Ramo, a postdoctoral scholar in the University of California-San Diego Department of Psychiatry. “And rates were much higher, which shows the problem might be larger than we realize.”
Researchers first questioned participants on their smoking habit. In the second stage, 3,500 participants were asked to anonymously reveal if they had used marijuana in the past 30 days. The study found that of the 68 percent of respondents who smoked cigarettes every day, 53 percent said they had also used marijuana within the past month. The prevalence of marijuana use did not differ by respondents’ age, income, gender, or residence in a medical marijuana state.
The findings indicate that programs to help young adults quit smoking should also take into account the effects of marijuana. That participants may have been more willing to admit to drug use on Facebook also reinforces the power of social media. “Adapting the social media aspect into intervention and incorporating the social environment are new ways to approach finding the most effective means for treatment,” said study senior author Judith Prochaska, an associate professor of psychiatry at UCSF. Ramo added, “This format allows [young people] to remain anonymous as much as they want, but have ease to access interventions when they are at the age when they are less likely to enter a treatment center, research lab or clinic.”