Substance use needs to be identified and addressed as soon as possible. It is possible to overcome the problem with the right treatment and support. A new study has revealed that the growing numbers of online support groups such as those on Facebook, are not as effective as the face-to-face counseling in curbing substance use among the youth.
First author Donald S. Grant from Fielding Graduate University, Santa Barbara, said, "One of the most hotly debated media issues today is whether our rapidly increasing use of social networking might be supplanting face-to-face-interactions and, if so, what the social consequences might prove for us as a culture. Our study focused on better understanding the strengths and weaknesses of online versus face-to-face sobriety support."
Using Facebook and other online social media platforms, the researchers recruited 196 adults (141 female, 55 male) who reported using both in-person and online sobriety support systems. Participants were primarily Caucasian (86%) and ranged in age from 18 to over 60 years of age. Over 90% of the participants reported having been in recovery for more than a year.
While the results showed that study participants in general continued to prefer fact-to-face meetings, there was an increase in online use that corresponded with a moderate decrease in meeting attendance. The study found that participants who attended more meetings had greater success in achieving and maintaining sobriety. Grant said, "One finding that may help explain the lower success rate of online support programs was that participants reported they were less likely to be dishonest in meetings than online."
Grant further added, "The research is important because although the data do not indicate a significant shift from meetings to online support groups yet, they do suggest that a move in that direction is happening and it is important to understand what that can mean for outcomes of individuals seeking help. When comparing the short amount of time online sobriety support has even been accessible to the number of those participants currently engaging with it, the likelihood that its popularity will only grow seems probable."
The study findings were presented at the ongoing American Psychological Association's 123rd Annual Convention in Toronto.