Author(s): Raminta Daniulaityte, Robert Carlson, Russel Falck, Delroy Cameron, Sujan Perera
AIMS: Many websites provide a means for individuals to share their experiences and knowledge about different drugs. Such User-Generated Content (UGC) can be a rich data source to study emerging drug use practices and trends. This study examined UGC on extra-medical use of loperamide among illicit opioid users. METHODS: A website that allows for the free discussion of illicit drugs and is accessible for public viewing was selected for analysis. Web-forum posts were retrieved using web crawlers and retained in a local text database. The database was queried to extract posts with a mention of loperamide and relevant brand/slang terms. Over 1290 posts were identified. A random sample of 258 posts was coded using NVivo to identify intent, dosage, and side-effects of loperamide use. RESULTS: There has been an increase in discussions related to loperamide's use by non-medical opioid users, especially in 2010-2011 Loperamide was primarily discussed as a remedy to alleviate a broad range of opioid withdrawal symptoms, and was sometimes referred to as "poor man's" methadone. Typical doses ranged 70-100mg per day, much higher than an indicated daily dose of 16mg. CONCLUSIONS: This study suggests that loperamide is being used extra-medically to self-treat opioid withdrawal symptoms. There is a growing demand among people who are opioid dependent for drugs to control withdrawal symptoms, and loperamide appears to fit that role. The study also highlights the potential of the Web as a "leading edge" data source in identifying emerging drug use practices. Copyright © 2012 Elsevier Ireland Ltd. All rights reserved.