Sleep Deprivation Linked To Teen Drug Use

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Researchers at the University of California, San Diego and Harvard University have found that poor sleep is associated with marijuana use among teens.

The Study

Prior studies on adult social networks have found that certain behaviors seem to be "contagious" among friends and acquaintances, meaning that your behavior can influence your friends, and in turn their friends, and so on. Behaviors like happiness, obesity, smoking, and altruism have all been found to spread within adult social networks in this way.

This new study looked at the impact of contagious behaviors in teen social networks by mapping the social network of over 8,000 teens in grades 7-12. Researchers found that the spread of poor sleep habits throughout the network was associated with the spread of marijuana use. Teens at the center of the social network are at a greater risk for poor sleep, meaning they are more likely to use marijuana.

What Does This Mean?

This association between lack of sleep and drug use emphasizes that human behaviors don't occur in isolation. One behavior, like not getting enough sleep, can have far-reaching effects. Study leader Sara Mednick notes that the results suggest that drug use may be influenced by targeting other behaviors, like sleep habits.

It's also clear that the behaviors of our friends--and even the behaviors of our friends' friends--can influence our own behaviors. According to Mednick, "This is our first investigation of the spread of illegal drug use in social networks. We believe it is also the first study in any age population on the spread of sleep behaviors through social networks."

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