Health information-seeking on Reddit, by people who use opioids


  • Margaret Sullivan The School of Information at Florida State University
  • Jonah Hancock The School of Information at Florida State University
  • George Shaw Department of Public Health Sciences, College of Health and Human Services, University of North Carolina at Charlotte
  • Chaoqun Ni The Information School, University of Wisconsin-Madison



Health information seeking, health information needs, Online social networks, harm reduction, discourse analysis


Introduction. In the most recent year that data is available, 101,035 people died from drug overdoses in the United States. For people who use drugs, obtaining treatment remains a significant barrier due to issues of fear, stigmatisation, and illegality. Some people turn to the anonymous social media site, Reddit, for obtaining health and harm reduction information.

Method. In this study we analysed 2,748 health-related posts on the subreddit r/opiates over a three-month period.

Analysis. Using a thematic analysis grounded in social constructivism, we categorised the data to determine the most frequent types of health questions asked by people who use opioids. We then used the text analysis software Linguistic Inquiry and Word Count to determine the emotional content of the posts.

Results. Most of the posts were asking about harm reduction strategies and methods to reduce or quit opioid use.

Conclusion. The text analysis demonstrated evidence of Foucault’s discourse theory. People who use opioids need more information on harm reduction strategies, and especially safely administering and withdrawing from them.




How to Cite

Sullivan, M., Hancock, J., Shaw, G., & Ni, C. (2024). Health information-seeking on Reddit, by people who use opioids. Information Research an International Electronic Journal, 29(2), 109–125.



Peer-reviewed papers