Introduction: Opioid misuse has evolved into an American health crisis over the past decade, becoming a public health epidemic. Measures need to be taken to prevent overdoses by opioid misuse as well as prevent the transition into injection drug use, a high risk factor for contracting HIV/HCV. This study utilized social media to survey individuals currently misusing opioids to identify groups of individuals with different risk and use patterns.
Methods: We recruited participants for our online survey from Reddit. Five risk behaviors were used to characterize overdose and HIV/HCV risk groups. Gender, age, and socioeconomic status were also included in the analyses, as well as items outlining social media use surrounding opioids.
Results: Two groups of participants were characterized by high likelihoods of different combinations of risky behaviors: (1) Overdose Risk Group and (2) Sexual Risk Group. Those in the Overdose Risk Group were more likely to be younger in age and female, and this group was more likely to desire or be ready for treatment relative to the lowest risk group. Those in the Sexual Risk Group were more likely to be of a minority race/ethnicity, to desire or be ready for treatment, and to post more often on Reddit about opioid use.
Discussion: The results of this study illustrate patterns of opioid use and risk behaviors to inform tailored outreach and treatment efforts for groups of opioid misusers and suggests the potential for utilizing social media as a tool to engage these individuals into treatment and recovery activities.
Keywords: HCV; HIV; Opioids; Overdose; Prevention; Risk behavior; Sexual risk; Social media.
Copyright © 2019 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
Conflict of interest statement
No conflict declared.
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