Twitter Comments Promote College Prescription Drug Problem

Social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter are where many young people get their news, their socialization and their sense of culture. And according to a recent study it’s also where college students discuss their prescription drug use.

A University of Pennsylvania study headed up by Jeanmarie Perrone, associate professor of Emergency Medicine at Penn, evaluated 2,100 plus Tweets over a seven day time frame to see how drug use was being portrayed online. The researchers quickly found that the majority of tweeting was not about the medically prescribed usage of the drugs but about their abuse.

The team identified specific words in tweets that they could use to categorize the abuse of prescription drugs, such as “percs” and “hydros” and found that 60-70 percent were positive about drug abuse.

Researchers found a strong correlation between mentioning dentist or emergency room visits and the mention of particular drugs, with dental visits linked to Hydrocodone and the ER linked to prescription painkillers like Percocet. According to Perrone, there is a straight line to be drawn between more prescribing of powerful pain relievers and the rise in prescription drug abuse.

Does someone need 30 Hydrocodone following oral surgery? Some might, many probably don’t. A definite tension exists between promoting healing and maintaining a positive doctor-patient relationship. Patients who experience significant pain may be less likely to seek treatment or be treatment-compliant, but an overall balance needs to be found.

The Penn researchers hope to use their findings to begin altering attitudes about prescription drugs. One way might be to use tweets to get out evidence-based information such as drug guidelines or research.

Social media has a great impact and great potential, but it’s only as useful as the person sending out the tweets. Why should the uninformed and ill-advised be the only ones in control of the social media conversation?

Posted on October 21st, 2014
Posted in Substance Abuse

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