Analyzing every marijuana-related Twitter message sent during a one-month period in early 2014, researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have found that the “Twitterverse” is a pot-friendly place. In that time, more than 7 million tweets referenced marijuana, with 15 times as many pro-pot tweets sent as anti-pot tweets.
The findings are reported online Jan. 22 in the Journal of Adolescent Health and will appear in February in the journal’s print edition.
Most of those sending and receiving pot tweets were under age 25, with many in their teens, a demographic group at increased risk for developing marijuana dependence and other drug-related problems.
“It’s a concern because frequent marijuana use can affect brain structures and interfere with cognitive function, emotional development and academic performance,” said first author Patricia A. Cavazos-Rehg, PhD, an assistant professor of psychiatry and scholar in the Washington University Institute for Public Health. “The younger people are when they begin using marijuana, the more likely they are to become dependent. A lot of young people will phase out of marijuana use as they get older, but unfortunately, we’re not good at predicting who those individuals are.”
Reams of social science studies have concluded that advertising and other messaging influences behavior. That’s why certain advertising - such as ads for cigarettes and alcohol - is restricted, especially in places children frequent. Cavazos-Rehg said messages on Twitter and other social media outlets likely influence behavior and public opinion, too.
“Many people believe marijuana use is harmless, and social media conversations almost certainly drive some of those opinions, making the drug appear socially acceptable,” she said.
Previously, the same team of researchers studied a Twitter account called Weed Tweets, a pro-pot handle with about 1 million followers. In the new study, Cavazos-Rehg and her colleagues worked with social media analytics company Simply Measured to find every tweet about marijuana sent from Feb. 5 to March 5, 2014.
They conducted computer searches using search terms such as “joint,” “blunt,” “weed,” “stoner” and “bong” to discover more than 7.6 million tweets related to pot.
They also focused their analysis on Twitter accounts with more than 775 followers as well as accounts with Klout scores of 44 and above. A Klout score measures social media influence on a scale of 1-100.
Pros for Legalizing Marijuana:
Prohibition must be weighed against the loss of personal freedom. Countries have a responsibility to respect individual free will and the right of self-determination.
The immorality of marijuana use can only be based on one set of moral beliefs. By taking a “moral” stand against recreational drugs, or fighting the evils caused by the illegal drug trade they increase their popularity amongst constituents.
The War on Drugs serves the immediate interests of politicians. By taking a “moral” stand against recreational drugs, or fighting the evils caused by the illegal drug trade they increase their popularity amongst constituents.
Legal prohibition does not stop consumers from consuming drugs, it does not stop trafficers from producing and selling it. The price of the final product increases to abnormally high values because of the black market status, which together with the powerful effects of drug addiction causes users to commit crimes in order to fund their addiction.
Critics of the War on Drugs advocate the partial or complete decriminalization of illegal drugs, combined with a system of regulation, as happens with alcohol and prescription drugs. By providing legal supplies of currently illegal drugs the price will fall, leading to a collapse in the illegal drug industry, and a reduction in crimes committed by both drug suppliers and users. They also argue that the reduction in the price will lead to little, if any, growth in drug addiction, due to the inelasticity of demand. Some even state that in a strictly regulated market, drug use may fall overall, by removing the marketing activities of the illegal drug industry.
It is not worthwhile for a law to forbid people from willingly exposing their own bodies to harm by using drugs, any more than by overeating or bungee-jumping. Obesity is a national epidemic, killing millions every year, but the government has no right to regulate how much citizens eat.
Drug users exercise free will when they chose to use drugs; a person has the right to give up his or her own freedom. A Government does not have the right to dictate them. No drug eliminates free will. It is possible to quit using any drug. Many banned drugs are significantly less deleterious to free will than legal alcohol or tobacco. Severe physiological addiction has been demonstrated for tobacco (stronger than cocaine), but no strong physiological addiction has been shown for marijuana.
Illegal Drug dealers will sell to anyone, including children. Merchants who legally sell alcohol and tobacco are not allowed to sell to children. Many high school students report that it is easier to obtain illegal drugs than alcohol and tobacco.
Examining a random sample of almost 7,000 tweets from these accounts, the researchers found that 77 percent were pro marijuana, 5 percent were against pot, and 18 percent were neutral.
People tweeting pro-marijuana messages had a total of more than 50 million Twitter followers, about 12 times more than those tweeting anti-marijuana messages, the researchers noted.
Pro-pot tweets most commonly were aimed at encouraging the use of marijuana and its legalization and made claims about the drug’s health benefits. Ten percent of the pro-marijuana tweets were sent by people who said they were currently using pot or high.
Anti-marijuana tweets often stated that the drug’s users were losers or unproductive or that marijuana use is unattractive. Those whose tweets were anti-pot also stressed that the drug was harmful or that the person tweeting was against legalization.
“Although we can’t yet link pro-pot tweets to actual drug use, we should be worried because many people are receiving these messages are at an age when they are most likely to experiment with drugs and develop problems with substance use,” Cavazos-Rehg said.
Funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), grants R01 DA032843, R01 DA039455, K02 DA021237 and R01 DA031288.
Cavazos-Rehg PA, Krauss M, Fisher SL, Salyer P, Grucza RA, Bierut LJ. Twitter chatter about marijuana. Journal of Adolescent Health. Published online, Jan. 22, 2015; in print February, 2015.
Washington University School of Medicine’s 2,100 employed and volunteer faculty physicians also are the medical staff of Barnes-Jewish and St. Louis Children’s hospitals. The School of Medicine is one of the leading medical research, teaching and patient-care institutions in the nation, currently ranked sixth in the nation by U.S. News & World Report. Through its affiliations with Barnes-Jewish and St. Louis Children’s hospitals, the School of Medicine is linked to BJC HealthCare.
Washington University School of Medicine
Journal of Adolescent Health
NIH/National Institute on Drug Abuse