Teacher Ryan Le Blanc has been on opioids since he was three months old after surgery for a unilateral cleft palate which turned into a heroin addiction. Le Blanc went on Bluelight.org where he would read the posts of the substances he was taking, how to safely take them, and how to quit. Researchers now feel like looking into these reading forums to gather more information into the opioid crisis to better fight it.
Stevie Chancellor, a computer science postdoctoral fellow at Northwestern University, completed a study with her colleagues. She built a computer program that recognizes distinct words and phrases in nearly 1.5 million posts on 63 subreddits where opioid addiction recovery was discussed. The program found that many people on Reddit were trying to quit heroin and fentanyl with other drugs. Chancellor was surprised at the results, but saw it was common in these forums that people would use heavier drugs to calm their withdrawal symptoms. Mixing certain drugs together can be deadly like taking Imodium at 15 times the usual dose can cause several heart problems. Using a variety of drugs in order to quit can be a great discovery for the medical community.
The Dark Net and Opioids
Online forums can provide useful data for researchers into investigating how the internet can impact drug use and recovery. The forums can be a judgement-free place to turn to when trying to quit drugs. There are rural areas like New England where people may have to travel for hours to go to a detox center. People can just go on a Reddit forum to learn do-it-yourself detox from their home. While forums can provide an upside for people to ask questions and gather information, there are also downsides. There are forums that are dedicated to taking drugs as well as a marketplace to sell them. The dark net can connect dealers to labs that produce drugs like fentanyl or designer drugs not typically found on the street.
The information that researchers are gathering proves that the internet has its pros and cons in regards to the opioid crisis. Online forums can be a great way to speak to others about seeking advice for recovery and can also be triggering to continue your drug use. If researchers continue gathering research with these forums, they can discover new solutions for ongoing problems in addiction recovery and drug detox.
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