From pillhead to OpiatesRecovery

Kimberly Glasgow, Ronald Schouten


The opioid epidemic in the United is a public health crisis. Opioids kill tens of thousands of Americans each year, and people with an opioid addiction experience mortality rates from 6 to 20 times greater than then the general population. While face-to-face social support, from family, friends, and peers has been shown to contribute to successful recovery and sustained abstinence, not all substance users have access to supportive personal networks, or may avoid reaching out, as a consequence of the stigma associated with drug use. They may choose other avenues, such as engaging with online communities. In this work, we mine Reddit to identify communities (subreddits) and actors who engage in opioid and treatment-related conversations. On Reddit, there are hundreds of subreddits that are substantially dedicated to issues around opioid use, treatment, recovery, related drug use, and comorbid conditions, with tens of thousands of contributors. We identify and characterize networks of social support and engagement for a subset of these actors, to see whether and how social support received from subreddit communities is associated with successful recovery, as evidenced through their behavior in the context of reddit.

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