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An Analysis of an Online Health Forum Dedicated to Addiction Recovery

LIWC Research Series:

Prescription drug abuse is a pressing public health issue, and people who misuse prescription drugs are turning to on- line forums for help. Are such forums effective? We analyze the process of opioid withdrawal, recovery and relapse on Forum77,’s online health forum for sub- stance abuse recovery. Applying Prochashka’s Transtheoretical Model for behavior change, we develop a taxonomy describing phases of addiction expressed by Forum77 members. We examine activity and linguistic features across the phases USING, WITHDRAWING and RECOVERING. We train statistical classifiers to identify addiction phase, relapse and whether a user was RECOVERING at the time of her last post. Applying our classifiers to 2,848 users, we find that while almost 50% relapse, the prognosis for ending in RECOVERING is favorable. Supplementing our results with users’ own accounts of their experiences, we discuss Forum77’s efficacy and short- comings, and implications for future technologies.

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Diana MacLean1, Sonal Gupta1, Anna Lembke2, Christopher Manning1 and Jeffrey Heer

Computer Science Department. Stanford University. Stanford, CA 94305 USA.

Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences Department. Stanford University. Stanford, CA 94305 USA.

Computer Science & Engineering Department. University of Washington. Seattle, WA 98195 USA. {malcdi, alembke, cmanning},,

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