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Abstract

While peer groups remain the primary place where learning about drugs takes place, recently, researchers have recognized that channels of mass communication (e.g. movies, television, the Internet) may also play an important role in the learning process. For the last several decades, studies have demonstrated that there is a positive relationship between mass media use and drug use. The purpose of this study is to examine the use of a new recreational drug, Salvia divinorum, on YouTube. Salvia divinorum is a naturally occurring hallucinogenic drug from the mint family indigenous to Mexico and Central and South America. When smoked, the drug produces a short intense hallucinogenic high. The findings of this study show that majority of users who placed videos of themselves using Salvia on YouTube, were white males who used the drug in a group setting. After using the drug, most users experience a brief “expansive trip” in which users were often seen laughing and enjoying themselves. However, videos that portrayed users having a negative or constrictive experience on Salvia were much more popular among viewers. Social learning theory and diffusion of innovations theory are used as theoretical frameworks that may allow a better understanding of the recent rise in popularity of Salvia divinorum use on the Internet.

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