Pubdate: Mon, 26 Jan 2015
Source: Scotsman (UK)
Copyright: 2015 The Scotsman Publications Ltd
Author: John Von Radowitz


EXPERTS have raised concerns about a thriving Twitter cannabis culture.

During a single month, researchers identified more than seven million 
tweets referring to marijuana, with "pro-pot" messages outnumbering 
those opposed to the drug by 15 to one.

Most of those sending and receiving "pot tweets" were under the age 
of 25, and many in their teens, said the team.

US psychiatrist and lead author Dr Patricia Cavazos-Rehg, from the 
Washington University Institute for Public Health, said: "It's a 
concern because frequent marijuana use can affect brain structures 
and interfere with cognitive function, emotional development and 
academic performance.

"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."

The findings, reported in the Journal of Adolescent Health, follow a 
computer search of tweets conducted between 5 February and 5 March last year.

Working with social media analytics company Simply Measured, the 
researchers looked for every tweet that mentioned marijuana.

Using search terms such as "joint", "blunt", "weed", "stoner" and 
"bong", the team turned up more than 7.6 million tweets referencing the drug.

An examination of a random sample of almost 7,000 tweets revealed 
that 77 per cent were pro-marijuana, 5 per cent against, and 18 per 
cent neutral.

Dr Cavazos-rehg added: "Many people believe marijuana use is 
harmless, and social media conversations almost certainly drive some 
of those opinions, making the drug appear socially acceptable.

"Although we can't yet link pro-pot tweets to actual drug use, we 
should be worried because many people receiving these messages are at 
an age when they are most likely to experiment with drugs and develop 
problems with substance use."

People tweeting pro-marijuana messages had more than 50 million 
Twitter followers - around 12 times more than those tweeting 
anti-marijuana messages.

Pro-pot tweets were most commonly aimed at encouraging use of 
cannabis and its legalisation, and made claims about the drug's health benefit.

And 10 per cent of the pro-marijuana tweets were sent by individuals 
who said they were taking the drug or high at the time.

Anti-marijuana tweets often states that the drug's users were 
"losers" or unproductive, or that taking cannabis is unattractive.

They also stressed that the drug was harmful, or that the person 
tweeting was against legalisation.

The scientists focused their analysis on Twitter accounts with more 
than 775 followers, as well as those with "Klout scores" of 44 and 
above. A Klout score measures social media influences on a scale of one to 100.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom