Medical Researchers Analyze Social Media to Understand Side Effects of Pain Meds
Harnessing the power of social media, medical researchers have sifted through more than two billion tweets and online posts to study the harmful side effects of narcotics medication taken for chronic pain. The research team, led by the Cedars-Sinai Center for Outcomes Research and Education, reviewed a vast collection of patient entries on Twitter and social media forums such as askapatient.com and patientslikeme.com.
The unfiltered sentiments posted on these sites revealed details not often captured by physicians or traditional clinical research about the gastrointestinal side effects of narcotics medication. In online messages, for example, some patients described experiencing severe constipation that was even more debilitating than their underlying illnesses.
The researchers believe the study is the first of its kind to analyze social media data related to gastrointestinal side effects from narcotics. “Social media can be used as a huge epidemiological database, a treasure-trove of insights from patients about their illness experiences, their treatments, and their attitudes and beliefs about health and disease,” said Brennan Spiegel, MD, MSHS, director of Cedars-Sinai Health Services Research and director of the Center for Outcomes Research and Education.
The study appears online in the Journal of Opioid Management.