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The European Journal of Psychology Applied to Legal Context

On-line version ISSN 1989-4007Print version ISSN 1889-1861


OKSANEN, Atte et al. Social media and access to drugs online: a nationwide study in the United States and Spain among adolescents and young adults. The European Journal of Psychology Applied to Legal Context [online]. 2021, vol.13, n.1, pp.29-36.  Epub Jan 25, 2021. ISSN 1989-4007.

Drugs are sold on both dark web services and on social media, but research investigating these drug purchases online is still emerging. The aim of this study is to analyze risk factors associated with buying drugs online. Utilizing theories of criminology and addiction research, it was hypothesized that social bonds, low levels of self-control, and poor mental health are associated with buying drugs online. Additionally, it was predicted that purchases of drugs online would mediate the relationship between low self-control and regular drug use. Participants of this nationwide study were 15 to 25 years old living in the United States (N = 1,212) and Spain (N = 1,212). Measures of impulsivity, a sense of mastery, social belonging, psychological distress, excessive behaviors (drinking, gambling and internet use) were utilized to predict purchasing drugs online. Two percent of the U.Sand Spanish respondents reported buying drugs online with 77% of them utilizing social media services to buy drugs. Results from multinomial logistic regression, penalized maximum-likelihood logistic regression, and binary mediation regression models indicated that buying drugs online was associated with lower self-control, higher psychological distress, and excessive gambling behavior and excessive Internet use. Having online friends was not a risk factor, but having strong social bonds with offline friends served as a protective factor. Additionally, buying drugs online mediated the relationship between low self-control and regular use of drugs. Results indicate that more focus should be placed on mainstream social media services as sources of drug acquisition as online drug buyers have multiple self-control and mental health problems.

Keywords : Substance use; Drugs; Internet; Social media; Adolescents; Young adults.

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