Researchers Hope to Reduce Opioid Abuse in Pain Patients Through Social Media

Researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) will study whether social media can help reduce opioid abuse in patients with chronic pain, according to Science.

UCLA’s Harnessing Online Peer Education (HOPE) program is designed to use the power of social media to improve public health. In a separate study, HOPE researchers found social media can be helpful in increasing HIV testing.

In a 12-week pilot project, funded by the National Institutes of Health, HOPE researchers will recruit about 60 patients with chronic pain who are on long-term opioid therapy and have reported other behaviors such as drug or alcohol abuse that put them at high risk for addiction.

Each participant will be asked to log into a private Facebook group. They can share posts, comments, pictures and private messages among themselves, and with eight peer role models who are also on long-term opioid therapy.

The researchers will monitor changes in participants’ reported use of opioids and other substances, to assess whether the strategy is effective. Lead scientist Sean Young says he wants to see whether participants find the intervention helpful, easy to use and accessible, and whether they are willing to talk about sensitive issues in an online community.

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