A survey of young adults recruited through social media finds more than half of those who smoke cigarettes say they also use marijuana. This is a higher percentage than has been reported in other surveys, suggesting young adults may be more comfortable reporting their substance use anonymously online.
The researchers from the University of California, San Francisco, recruited 3,500 young adults ages 18 to 25 through ads on Facebook, Craigslist and a survey sampling company, ABC News reports. They were asked about tobacco and marijuana use.
A 2009 survey by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration found 34.6 percent of people ages 18 to 25 who smoked in the past month also used marijuana, according to the news report. The new study found 53.1 percent acknowledged doing so.
“We were curious whether rates would be different in our study where we reached out through social media and the Web,” lead author Danielle Ramo, PhD, said in a news release. “And rates were much higher, which shows the problem might be larger than we realize.”
The researchers noted that living in a state in which medical marijuana is legal was unrelated to the prevalence of marijuana use found in the survey.
They acknowledged that using social media websites to recruit participants makes it difficult to get a nationally representative sample. “These data, even though they showed a large prevalence of use, can’t be directly compared to nationally representative surveys,” Ramo said.
She added the results suggest smoking cessation efforts aimed at young adults should target tobacco and marijuana, since using both substances at the same time is common.
The research is scheduled to be published in Addiction Science and Clinical Practice.