Study: People Who Post On Social Media While High Regret It

By Kelly Burch 08/06/19

More than half of the study participants had called or texted someone while high, and more than 30% regretted that decision.

young woman using social media while high
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You wake up the morning after a night out and immediately reach for your phone to see what the damage is: the calls, texts or social media posts you made that never would have gone out if you were sober. 

It’s a common experience, according to a study released today in the journal Substance Abuse. For the study, researchers from New York University surveyed partygoers about their social media and phone use while high, and how they felt about it after. 

More than half of the study participants (55.9%) had called or texted someone while high, and more than 30% regretted that decision. Nearly 35% of people had posted on social media high, which 21.4% later regretted; and 47.5% of people had been in a photo high, which 33% regretted. 

The study shows that drug use has important social implications, said lead study author Joseph Palamar, a researcher at the Center for Drug Use and HIV/HCV Research and an associate professor of Population Health at NYU School of Medicine.

Risky Posts

“Risky social media posts, including those showing people high on drugs, have the potential to cause embarrassment, stress, and conflict for users and those in their social networks,” Palamar said in a press release. “It can also have adverse implications for one’s career, since the majority of employers now use social media platforms to screen job candidates and may search for evidence of substance use.”

Palamar said the fact that people regret their posts, texts or calls speaks for itself.

“At least one in five experienced regret after engaging in these behaviors while high, suggesting that some situations may have resulted in socially harmful or embarrassing scenarios,” he said. 

Younger people (ages 18-24) and females were the most likely to use social media or phones in a way they later regretted. People who identified as neither heterosexual, gay or bisexual were at an increased risk of social media posts, while black study participants were much less likely to post, text or call. 

People using marijuana were the most likely to make posts, followed by those who were using cocaine. 

Palamar and study co-author Austin Le, a research associate in the NYU Langone Department of Population Health, said that their research indicates that harm reduction efforts need to include the social consequences of getting high. 

“While more research is needed, our findings suggest a need for prevention or harm reduction programs to educate high-risk groups not only about the adverse health effects of substance use, but also about the potential negative social outcomes,” Le said. 

Palamar agreed. 

“While prevention programs have largely focused on physical safety—for example, not driving after drinking—such programs can also stress that using a smartphone while high can increase the risk of someone engaging in regretful behavior,” he said. “Tactics such as using apps to prevent texting while intoxicated or delaying posting on social media until one is no longer experiencing drug effects may help to minimize social harm.”

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Kelly Burch writes about addiction and mental health issues, particularly as they affect families. Follow her on TwitterFacebook, and LinkedIn.