College students who binge drink are frequently posting online while intoxicated and show signs of social media "addiction," according to a US study.
The study, published in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, shows students later may regret their drinking-related posts and experience other negative consequences from combining social media and alcohol use.
"During these times when young students are feeling disinhibited by alcohol, they may be even more likely than usual to post inappropriate material without considering the future impact," said Natalie A Ceballos from Texas State University in the US.
"In some cases, these sorts of mistakes have even influenced college admission and later job applications," Ceballos said.
Friends who view their posts of heavy drinking may then be more likely to perceive intoxication as exciting and fun, researchers said.
However, social media also may prove to be an avenue for prevention efforts among student drinkers, they said.
"While college students' reliance on social media has been identified as a risk factor for alcohol-related problems, it might also present an opportunity for innovative interventions," Ceballos said.
Since social media use has exploded in recent years and trends among young people have changed so quickly, the researchers sought to define exactly what platforms college students are using and how they are using them, particularly in relation to alcohol use.
The researchers recruited 425 undergraduate students, ages 18 through 25, asking them about alcohol use, including the quantity and frequency with which they drank and if they had ever "binged".
In the study, binge drinking was defined as having five drinks at one time for men and four or more for women.
The researchers also queried about students' use of social media, including Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook and Twitter, and whether students posted social media messages while drinking and while intoxicated.
Students then were asked about their social media "addiction" -- that is, if they experienced negative consequences from their social media use.
Compared with students who had never binged, student binge drinkers were more likely to have posted on any social media platform while drinking and while intoxicated.
Binge drinkers also showed greater "intensity" towards social media and a non-statistically significant trend towards being more addicted to social media.
They also used more social media platforms than non-binge drinkers.
"These findings suggest that, in terms of common brain reward mechanisms, perhaps when students get a positive response on social media, this might be "rewarding" to them in a way that is similar to other addictive behaviours," Ceballos said.
However, social media may turn out to be a good platform for interventions to reduce heavy drinking.
Studies of pathological gambling have shown that harm-reduction messages delivered "in the moment" can help disrupt this behaviour.
The research group suspects that similar interventions, timed while students are socially drinking but before significant impairment occurs, "might be useful in preventing an episode of social drinking from escalating into a binge."