Analysing Twitter as an Opportunity to Understand Substance Use

14 Pages Posted: 20 Feb 2015

See all articles by Sharon Sznitman

Sharon Sznitman

University of Haifa - School of Public Health

Date Written: February 18, 2015


The growth of social media provides researchers access to real-time and historical ‘big data’ related to substance use. Microblogging sites like Twitter have the potential to provide novel insight and data of potential importance and significance to substance use researchers. This chapter reviews research that has examined substance use-related data via Twitter. The findings of these studies provide evidence to suggest that this social media site may be an important source of data about substance use. However, the ways in which Twitter can be utilized, the implications of its use for research, and various ethical and practical considerations of research using Twitter in this context require further examination.

The objective of this chapter is three-fold. First, the chapter provides readers with an overview of the major findings thus far in the use of Twitter in social science substance use research. Second, the review explicates three of the most widely applied theoretical and epistemological frameworks for research on Twitter in the current literature. Finally, the chapter aims to provide the reader with a roadmap for potential future research avenues related to social drug research. In particular, the chapter outlines a number of ways in which Twitter could be used to develop novel prevention and intervention approaches to addressing substance use. Given the sensitive nature of substance use research, the chapter also addresses several noteworthy ethical complexities of using Twitter as a platform for research.

Suggested Citation

Sznitman, Sharon, Analysing Twitter as an Opportunity to Understand Substance Use (February 18, 2015). Available at SSRN: or

Sharon Sznitman (Contact Author)

University of Haifa - School of Public Health ( email )


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