Friday November 15, 2019
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Twitter used by illegal online pharmacies to pedal drugs

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New York: Illegal online pharmacies are using Twitter to promote prescription drug abuse of controlled substances.

“This study is the first to establish an empirical link between Twitter content and illicit online pharmacies which promote the illegal sale of drugs that have significant abuse potential,” said study co-author Timothy Mackey from University of California-San Diego.

“Our results are concerning, as the study found over 45,000 tweets that promoted drug abuse even though we only looked at a two-week period of tweets,” Mackey added.

According to the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), young adults are the biggest abusers of prescription opioid pain relievers, ADHD stimulants, and anti-anxiety drugs.

The study conducted surveillance and content analysis of over two million tweets using the Twitter public streaming application programming interface and used assisted machine learning.

Tweets were analysed to determine if they discussed drug abuse issues, whether they favourably promoted drug abuse behaviour, and were also examined to see if they directly enabled the illegal access to controlled substances by online pharmacies.

Mackey said the study findings are extremely troubling.

“When we examined links included in a subset of the tweets that discussed drug abuse, we discovered that 76 percent of these tweets included a link to an online marketing affiliate advertising the sale of the controlled substance valium, a tranquillizer that is commonly abused,” he said.

Buying prescription drugs from illegal online pharmacies also endanger consumers financial information, putting them at risk of identity theft, according to experts.

The study was published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research (JMIR). (IANS) (image courtesy:wsjgadjets.ndtv.com)

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Are you an Avid Twitter User? Your Posts can Reveal How Lonely you are

If we are able to identify lonely individuals and intervene before the health conditions associated with the themes we found begin to unfold, we have a change

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Twitter, User, Posts
Loneliness can be a slow killer, as some of the medical problems associated with it can take decades to manifest. Pixabay

Researchers have found that users who tweet on loneliness are much more likely to write about mental well-being issues and things like struggles with relationships, substance use and insomnia on Twitter.

By applying linguistic analytic models to tweets, researchers were able to gain an insight into the topics and themes that could be associated with loneliness.

“Loneliness can be a slow killer, as some of the medical problems associated with it can take decades to manifest,” said the study’s lead author Sharath Chandra Guntuku, from University of Pennsylvania in the US.

“If we are able to identify lonely individuals and intervene before the health conditions associated with the themes we found begin to unfold, we have a change to help those much earlier in their lives. This could be very powerful and have long-lasting effects on public health,” Guntuku said.

Twitter, User, Posts
By applying linguistic analytic models to tweets, researchers were able to gain an insight into the topics and themes that could be associated with loneliness. Pixabay

By determining typical themes and linguistic markers posted to social media that are associated with people who are lonely, the team has uncovered some of the ingredients necessary to construct a ‘loneliness’ prediction system.

As part of the study, published in the journal BMJ, researchers analysed public accounts from users based in Pennsylvania and found that 6,202 accounts used words such as ‘lonely’ or ‘alone’ more than five times between 2012 and 2016.

Comparing the entire Twitter timelines of these users to a matched group who did not have such language included their posts, the researchers showed that ‘lonely’ users tweeted nearly twice as much and were much more likely to do so at night.

When the tweets were analysed via several different linguistic analytic models, the users who posted about loneliness had an extremely high association with anger, depression and anxiety, when compared to the ‘non-lonely’ group.

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Additionally, the lonely groups were significantly associated with tweeting about struggles with relationships (for example, using phrases like ‘want somebody’ or ‘no one to’) and substance use (‘smoke,’ ‘weed,’ and ‘drunk’)

“On Twitter, we found lonely users expressing a need for social support, and it appears that the use of expletives and the expression of anger is a sign of that being unfulfilled,” Guntuku said.

Users in the group that didn’t post about loneliness seemed to display some social connections, as they were found to be more likely to engage in conversations, especially by including others’ user names (using ‘@twitter_handle’) in their tweets.

In the future, the researchers hope to develop a better measure of the different dimensions of loneliness that online users are feeling and expressing. (IANS)