Prescription Drug Abuse:
Does Social Media Play a Role?
Much has been written about illicit drug abuse in the United States. There are Public Health programs geared towards preventing and reducing the number of new users, as well as advising active users on resources to help them stop. In addition extensive law enforcement efforts are in place to address the importation, trafficking, and end-user sales. Despite these efforts and expenditures, elicit drug abuse continues to be a troubling and serious problem for Public Health Departments, the Health care system, Law Enforcement officials, all levels of government, and society at large.
|From: Paulozzi, p. 1491|
In recent years, a growing problem has emerged involving the recreational or illicit use of prescription drugs. As detailed in a report published last year from the Centers for DiseaseControl and Prevention (CDC), over the 10-year period between 1999-2008, “overdose death rates, sales and substance abuse treatment admissions related to opiate pain relievers all increased substantially.”
Another study published in 2011 by the CDC showed that 20.2% of high school students reported having taken prescription drugs- including OxyContin®, Percocet®, Vicodin®, Adderall®, Ritalin®, and Xanax®.- that were not specifically prescribed to them one or more times in their lives. (Eaton, 2010, p. 19) Much of the scientific literature examining prescription drug abuse by adolescents and young adults tends to focus on analgesics, specifically opiates, because of the alarming increase in deaths due to overdose among these two groups.
|Adderall® tablets & capsules|
|OxyContin ® tablets|
With these challenges in mind, the current investigation seeks to understand the role of Social Media in various transactions involving two of the prescription drugs cited in the previous paragraphs- the opiate analgesic OxyContin® and the stimulant Adderall®. The volume and context of mentions on Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus of each drug will be tracked daily, over the 2 month period of February 16- April 15, 2012. The primary objectives will be:
- To explore the types of interaction and frequency of mentions;
- To identify any patterns of communication related to these drugs that might emerge; and
- To explore some of the methodological, ethical, and practical issues that must be considered in this format.
The charts above compare the absolute volume of mentions (top) and the percent of messages containing the mention, out of the total number of blog posts (bottom). If one were to rely on the bottom chart alone, it would appear that neither of these terms receives significant mention relative to the total "chatter" on the Web. However, paired with the pattern of absolute increased number of mentions, some possible patterns emerge.
|Adderall Total Buzz, Feb. 16- Mar. 15, 2012, Source: actionly.com|
|OxyContin Total Buzz, Feb. 16- Mar. 15, 2012, Source: actionly.com|
The author would like to thank actionly.com for their generous support in providing daily tracking and data computation services free of charge.
DuPont, R. (2010, June). Prescription Drug Abuse: An Epidemic Dilemma. Journal of Psychoactive Drugs , pp. 127-132.
Eaton, D. K. (2010, June 4). Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance — United States, 2009. MMWR, Special Report No. 5 , pp. 1-38.
Garnier, L., Arria, A., Caldeira, K., Vincent, K., & O’Grady, K. (2010, March). Sharing and selling of prescription medications in a college student sample. Journal of Clinical Psychiatry , pp. 262-269.
Jena, A. a. (2011, June). Growing Internet Use May Help Explain the Rise in Prescription Drug Abuse in the United States. Health Affairs , pp. 1192-1199.
Paulozzi, L. J. (2011, November 4). Vital Signs: Overdoses of Prescription Opioid Pain Relievers -- United States, 1999-2008. Morbidity & Mortality Weekly Report , 60 (43), pp. 1487-1492.
Swanson, J., Wigal, T., & Volkow, N. (2011, September). Contrast of Medical and Nonmedical Use of Stimulant Drugs, Basis for the Distinction, and Risk of Addiction: Comment on Smith and Farah (2011). Psychological Bulletin , 137 (5), pp. 742-748.