Asking someone how likely they are to take illegal drugs in the future
can actually increase the likelihood that they will indeed take drugs –
a finding with worrying implications for health research.
Patti Williams and
colleagues recruited 167 undergrads and asked some of them about their
intentions to take drugs, and the others about their intentions to
exercise. Two months later, the students were contacted again, and
those who had been asked about drugs reported taking drugs an average
of 2.8 times in the intervening period, compared with an average of 1.1
times among the students previously asked about exercise.
effect was even more dramatic when those students who said they hadn’t
taken any drugs at all were omitted from the analysis. Among the
remaining students, those asked about their drug-taking intentions said
they’d used drugs an average of 10.3 times over the past two months,
compared with an average of 4 times among the students previously asked
about their exercise intentions.
This observation, together with further analysis, suggested it wasn’t
that new drug users had been created, but rather that the questioning
had led to increased use among current users who presumably had a
positive attitude towards drugs in the first place.
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