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Drugs and Social Media Influence: Analysis of the On-Screen Epidemic

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Teens are being heavily influenced by social media profiles, and this influence is leading to drugs and deaths. Tess Henry was a young mother and a very loving daughter… until a drug addiction took over her life. The addiction took her from her son, blurred her perception of reality, then got her mixed up with gangs and debts owed. This addiction led her to lie to her closest family, sell her body to get money and drugs, then eventually make a bet she could not fulfill, one that cost her her life. Because of Cocaine, Xanax, Vicodin, and various other drugs, a son lost his mother, while a mother lost yet another daughter to drugs. She ended up only making herself part of another statistic. Beginning with tobacco products, the addition lead to something that took her life.

Trust from consumers is becoming more important than trust with professionals. There has shown to be an impact in sales depending on the “link between trust in a brand and brand evaluation” and this can be seen in Juul with their heavy trust from social media influencers but lack of safety and regulation in underage sales. (Hahn, Ivanete Schneider, et al). “If a brand has built a sufficient level of trust with consumers” (qt. Yacoub) trust with consumers will almost always override trust with manufacturers or even leaders of the company and can lead to dangerous products being evaluated as safe.

Companies are paying social media influencers to show their product on influencers’ platforms. Lorenzo De Plano, the co-founder of Solace Vapor, said in an e-mailed statement that the company will be reviewing and ending relationships with influencers ‘who may not be compliant with our marketing policies.’ the founder added that ‘internal packaging, marketing, and nicotine warnings are compliant with FDA standards and that the company “does not endorse the use of [their] products by people who were not previously tobacco users” (Scholl, Lawrence, et al.). To break down consumerism through social media, Ivanete Hahn describes in the article “Consumer trust in an emotional response to advertisements on social media and their influence on brand evaluation” that it is more than just visually being attracted to something and then moving on to another visual attraction, but in fact is much more complex, emotionally. Social media can lead to a dependence on what one sees. The viewer starts to want what is shown and eventually buys it to fit into their standards of what is becoming normal to them. It also can have something to do with the natural embrace of wanting pretty things or things that pretty people have in the hopes of boosting their image to themselves, however, there are several drawbacks, one being the appeal of drugs on average people.

Underage usage and deaths stem from the portrayal in the media. In “Drug and Opioid-Involved Overdose Deaths — the United States, 2013–2017” an article by the CDC, statistics given show that ever since the boom of social media, there has also been a recent boom in drug usage. Yet despite the recent boom in social media, this stat has been covered up and is much less known by the general public. However, these used in the stats of recent deaths and injuries such as Percocet and Vicodin, as well as vapes such as Juul and Sourin are very commonly known by people, from music and such. In the article “US agencies go after companies that paid social media influencers to promote vape products” the authors Michael Nedelman and Arman Azad talk about companies that are paying to promote their products via social media accounts, as well as paying social media influencers to advertise their products positively. Trying to boost their sales ‘definitely’ not to underage users despite the social media influencers’ fan bases often being of underage kids who can not legally buy their products as is. The article goes in-depth to talk about the increase in vaping by teens, which is about 80% higher than it previously was by 2019, with a 50% increase by Middle Schoolers. Obviously, there is something that is appealing to these kids, something that goes farther than just pictures.

The specific mental aspect of advertising is a lot more effective than many might think. Substance abuse behavior can stem from bullying through social media and looking to influencers for comfort, then wanting to fit in, seeing the influencers using a product- most likely a drug, then -underage- getting that drug to feel better about themselves. It is all connected very specifically. (Herbert, Patrick). Certain influencers can use music to help advertise their ‘product’ that they are trying to get others to enjoy or overall just the products that they are being paid to display on their profiles and in posts, etc… they do not use “music lyrics according to how truthful they were about the consequences of substance abuse” (Herbert, Patrick). Sometimes influencers are completely untruthful to the real shame and problems associated with those drugs or substances involved in the song, the power is uncanny.

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Media influencers overall hold a lot more power over the use than previously thought. Social media influencers can be heavily influenced by what they advertise and ultimately get people to buy, “a social media user’s relationship with a brand may be influenced by other contacts” and this influence can be fueled by false promises or even with the intent of harming those being influenced. (Hahn, Ivanete Schneider, et al). While most advertisements are coming from social media and influencers of those social media (Hahn, Ivanete Schneider, et al) companies have lost control of their brands and influencers have gained all the power of the impact of consumers’ wants, as a way to mentally influence them as they become familiar with things they see and ultimately end up wanting the mental pleasures of.

Apps like Instagram and Twitter need to look over the popular posters that have younger audiences to try and lessen the impact they have over their audiences. Social networking/social media influence of vaping can be stopped if they only paid more attention to the larger accounts that are abusing their status and giving new light and reason for the use of tobacco products and nicotine products. “The rising toll of opioid overdoses in the past decade has been declared a prescription drug epidemic by the Centers for Disease Control” touching base on how opioid addictions can come from nicotine or tobacco addictions, the want of something a little more takes over, and people give in. (R. Scott, Kevin, et al.). ‘Dr. Sharpless made it very clear that no action would be taken to ban kid-friendly vaping flavors during this President’s term in office” (Michael Nedelman and Arman Azad). “‘It became clear during my meeting with Acting Commissioner Sharpless that he has absolutely no intention of taking legal action he is empowered to take to protect our nation’s children from the addiction of e-cigarettes,’ Durbin said in a statement in May. The messages will most likely continue, so it is big social media companies’ responsibility to try to stop them.

Listening to the silent messages that are not particularly clear will help stop the growing epidemic of drug use on teens. “Researchers have utilized social media to gain insights into use patterns and prevailing attitudes about various substances. Social media has the potential to enhance the screening, prevention, and treatment of addiction. With future funding, they should be leveraged to advance understanding of prescription drug use and improve treatment and prevention of abuse” (R. Scott, Kevin, et al.). Note #2: “(…) We also found that the emotional response to the advertisements on social media will positively influence brand evaluations. If the consumer has a positive emotional reaction to an online advertisement of the brand, the more positively the consumer will perceive the brand. This link between emotional response to the advertisements and brand evaluation contributes to a better understanding of the role of the online media and how this media influences performance variables, such as brand evaluation.” (Hahn, Ivanete Schneider, et al.). If profiles promoting these drugs and substances are stopped, the community can turn social media around and instead of promoting the drugs, educate viewers on the deadly statistics and completely flip what was happening previously.

Spreading the word or making this more obviously horrific can help bring upon the end of teen drug use. “Digital Social Media, Youth, and Nonmedical Use of Prescription Drugs: The Need for Reform” really shows the side of drugs and vapes that the media normally tries to cover. The youth is being impacted by nicotine, addictions, and wanting to fit in, and in the case of this article that mindset had ultimately led to a couple of deaths of kids. The amount of kids vaping has gone up significantly since the boom of social media. Tim Mackey wanted to get across his point of this problem, and how this is a HUGE problem, and will eventually start to impact or change the lives of everyone if it continues to go unaddressed. The solution he gave would be something similar to targeting the accounts that are promoting these products, and the drug companies. In terms of reform, its needed in the ways of “(…) examining amendment and modernization of the RHA to improve its scope, effectiveness, and enforceability over illicit online NUPM promotion of prescription controlled substance drugs where it is actively occurring” the end goal is to stop the controlled way of obtaining or being influenced by drugs on social media, but the way to do this could just be at its source, to try and stop drug companies altogether. (Mackey TK, Liang BA This can work, Juul was almost shut down when told to stop selling the popular/good flavored ‘pods’ as that was a factor playing into getting teens to buy it, and for a limited time, sales dropped substantially, but these methods were quickly met with other brands coming up with new ‘good’ flavored nicotine juices for vapes.

To stop sales and addictions we need to realize what is promoting them, and what the appeal really is. “The tragic death of 18-year-old Ryan Haight highlighted the ethical, public health, and youth patient safety concerns posed by illicit online nonmedical use of prescription drugs (NUPM) sourcing, leading to federal law in an effort to address this concern” (Mackey TK, Liang BA, et. al). This boy started vaping because he saw it becoming more and more common all around him, the vaping addiction turned into an opioid addiction as he wanted a heavier, more lasting fix. In “An Examination of How Alcohol Brands Use Sport to Engage Consumers on Social Media.”, the article is giving many examples of companies taking advantage of social media platforms and the such to further their sales of a substance that is not so good for anyone and is used to demonstrate just how easily influenced people can get by advertisements and especially social media. The amount of propaganda that even kids know due to commercials, songs, tunes, or accounts of Instagram just shows how impacting these things truly are to the average person or even kid witnessing them.

Overall, in order to effectively stop or lessen the usage of drugs by teens, companies need to focus on the larger profiles with younger audiences that might be advertising or showing drugs on their accounts. To these accounts, they either need to come with a warning label or be shut down completely to truly be effective. Instagram, Twitter, etc… need to start taking their influences seriously and show that they mean business when it comes to underage usage. The correlation to these accounts is uncanny, and obviously, there is a problem, however, this method is hard to completely come to a conclusion of whether it will in fact work out or not, at least until it is tried. Drug use has grown substantially throughout the past few years, so nothing like this has ever been tried before. With the right push towards social media accounts to take this seriously, the end goal of lessening teen vapers can be reached.

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Drugs and Social Media Influence: Analysis of the On-Screen Epidemic. (2022, September 27). Edubirdie. Retrieved March 27, 2023, from
“Drugs and Social Media Influence: Analysis of the On-Screen Epidemic.” Edubirdie, 27 Sept. 2022,
Drugs and Social Media Influence: Analysis of the On-Screen Epidemic. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 27 Mar. 2023].
Drugs and Social Media Influence: Analysis of the On-Screen Epidemic [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Sept 27 [cited 2023 Mar 27]. Available from:
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