Objective. The Internet contains an extraordinary amount of information on the recreational use of psychoactive substances. We investigated the effect of the Internet on the drug-use knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors of adolescents.
Methods. Cross-sectional survey of adolescents being managed for substance abuse.
Results. Of 12 patients (9 male, 3 female) who had used the Internet to learn about psychoactive substances, 100% reported that Internet-based information had affected the ways in which they had used psychoactive substances. Of the 12 respondents, 8 described adopting behaviors intended to minimize the risks associated with psychoactive substance use. Respondents also reported changes in the use of a wide variety of illicit substances as well as over-the-counter and prescription pharmaceuticals. Examiners assessed whether quotations demonstrated that respondents’ knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors toward psychoactive substance use were affected by Internet information. Despite the subjective nature of the research question, there was a highly significant agreement between coders.
Conclusions. Web-based data on psychoactive substances seem to influence a broad range of drug-use behaviors in adolescents. Information on the ways that the Internet is being used by this vulnerable population should be considered in the design of Web sites to prevent the initiation and use of psychoactive substances.