Partisan politics and the opioid epidemic: A social media evaluation

Partisan politics and the opioid epidemic: A social media evaluation

Determine 1. Comparability of most incessantly used phrases in Democrats’ and Republicans’ opioid-related social media posts. Credit score: Stokes et al., Journal of Normal Inner Medication, 2021.

The opioid epidemic has had devastating results in purple states and blue states alike, making it a main goal for bipartisan motion. However each federal and state coverage have been characterised by sharp partisan variations in response to rising charges of opioid-related overdose deaths. In a research not too long ago printed within the Journal of Normal Inner Medication, we sought to know how partisanship may have an effect on legislative progress on this seemingly bipartisan concern by analyzing the content material of state legislators’ opioid-related social media posts over time.

We used pure language processing instruments to research greater than 40,000 state legislators’ opioid-related posts from 2014-19 (primarily to Fb and Twitter), and we tracked partisan variations in consideration to key subjects over time. We discovered that whereas the quantity of Democrats’ and Republicans’ opioid-related posts have been equally correlated with state overdose dying charges, the content material of posts more and more diverged over the research interval.

A lot of the rising hole in state legislators’ opioid-related social media content material could possibly be attributed to unequal consideration to a few key subjects: pharmaceutical firm accountability, opioid use dysfunction (OUD) remedy, and manufacture and commerce of unlawful medication. Democrats’ posts more and more spoke to monetary penalties for the pharmaceutical corporations accountable for manufacturing and promoting generally prescribed opioids; the place these funds can be directed was usually unclear. Democrats have been additionally more and more prone to put up about OUD remedy and restoration. Republicans’ posts, then again, more and more spoke to curbing the unlawful drug commerce, notably throughout worldwide borders.

Past a subject evaluation, we additionally analyzed phrase utilization in Democrats’ and Republicans’ posts. The above determine exhibits a comparability of probably the most incessantly used phrases, highlighting these phrases notably completely different in frequency of use between the 2 events.

The extent to which legislators’ social media exercise displays their legislative exercise is unclear. However our findings recommend basic variations in how Democrats’ and Republicans’ perceive and react publicly to persistently climbing charges of overdose deaths. Partisanship in understanding the basis causes of the overdose epidemic is prone to beget partisanship in proposing options.

The subjects more and more prevalent amongst Democratic legislators—holding pharmaceutical corporations accountable and OUD remedy—could each overemphasize the position of prescription opioids and appropriately heart OUD as a medical sickness with evidence-based therapies. Overdose deaths more and more and overwhelmingly contain illicitly manufactured artificial opioids, like fentanyl, somewhat than purely prescription opioids or heroin. Whereas pharmaceutical corporations have been discovered responsible of misconduct of their promoting of opioids, an overemphasis on prescription opioids could result in much less dialogue relating to the extra substantial position that fentanyl and different artificial opioids play within the overdose epidemic. Then again, the rising prevalence of posts associated to remedy and restoration could replicate rising acceptance and normalization of evidence-based drugs for OUD remedy, comparable to buprenorphine and methadone.

Republicans’ rising consideration to the subject of the unlawful manufacture and commerce of opioids could each acknowledge the extra outstanding position of illicitly manufactured artificial opioids within the overdose epidemic, and reinforce the dangerous criminalization of opioid use. Proof from New York Metropolis factors to an affiliation between higher native police exercise and better overdose mortality charges. Moreover, the criminalization of drug use is skilled dramatically in a different way by Black and Latinx folks within the U.S. For instance, in 2014, Black and Latinx males within the U.S. have been 5 instances and two instances extra probably than white males to be imprisoned for drug-related crimes, respectively, regardless of comparable charges of drug use throughout all three teams. Prohibition-based drug insurance policies, e.g., “the battle on medication,” have led to the expansion and militarization of each felony networks and police forces with devastating implications for communities affected by drug manufacture, transportation, and gross sales.

Pure language processing of publicly obtainable textual content can assist us to know the nuances of political disagreement amongst each legislators and constituents. Hopefully, by higher understanding the place our ideas on the overdose disaster diverge, we will transfer in direction of a typical imaginative and prescient of the issue we face and the way finest to method it.

The research, “State Legislators’ Divergent Social Media Response to the Opioid Epidemic from 2014 to 2019: Longitudinal Subject Modeling Evaluation,” was printed March 29, 2021 within the Journal of Normal Inner Medication.


Greater than two-thirds of drug OD deaths in 2017 concerned opioids


Extra data:
Daniel C. Stokes et al, State Legislators’ Divergent Social Media Response to the Opioid Epidemic from 2014 to 2019: Longitudinal Subject Modeling Evaluation, Journal of Normal Inner Medication (2021). DOI: 10.1007/s11606-021-06678-9

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College of Pennsylvania


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