Over the years, drug abuse has been on the rise. Peer influence, poverty, and limited education on drug abuse and its effects are some of the risk factors contributing to the spiking numbers. That said, not all drugs have the same physical and psychological effects.
To determine a drug consumer community’s toxicity, we carried out a study analysis of Reddit users’ behaviors. It turned out certain drugs, to a varying degree, affect the person’s social behavior, and mental condition. We’ve highlighted our methodology and findings below.
We analysed more than 16 million comments and threads across the subreddits of most-used substances, i.e., alcohol, heroin, marijuana, opioids, tobacco, etc. The subreddits are divided into 4 categories. These categories are also the 4 factors we used to rank the toxicity of each drug consumer community:
- Drug subreddits with the highest proportion of swear words (offensive words)
- Drug subreddits with the highest proportion of violent activity (e.g., bully, abuse, threatening…)
- Drug subreddits with the highest proportion of mentally negative activities and states (e.g., self-harm, suicidal thoughts, consistent sobbing, or being in a bad mood, etc. )
- Drug subreddits with the highest proportion of mentally positive activities and states (e.g., feeling good, feeling happy, meditating, exercising, eating healthy, etc.)
To standardise our results and calculate the overall score, all factors have been evenly ranked between 0-10. The lowest possible score is 0, and the highest possible score is 10. We achieved this by using the following min-max normalisation formula:
Factor score (i)=10 . ( ( (x(i) – x (min) ) / ( (x(max) – x(min) ) )
The overall score is then calculated by this formula:
Overall score (i)= (Factor(1) score (i) + Factor(2) score (i) + Factor(3) score (i) – Factor(4) score (i)) / 4
Heroin Consumers Are The Most Toxic Drug Community
Heroin ranks at the number one spot with an overall ranking of 6.1, followed closely by Opioids and Alcohol with overall scores of 4.89, and 4.17 respectively.
Tobacco, Marijuana, and Hallucinogens users rank as the least toxic drug communities with overall scores of -1.89, 0.47, and 0.85, respectively.
Heroin’s mental effects can be associated with the high toxicity seen among its users. The sudden high sensation, also known as the “heroin rush,” can stimulate aggression resulting in violent behaviors. Long-term side effects such as memory loss and depression can be linked to the high proportion of mentally negative activities, mood changes, suicidal behaviors, psychological dependence, and addiction.
Heroin dependence and addiction are some of the common challenges among heroin users. Frequent injections can lead to infections of the blood vessels or cause collapsed veins. Sharing needles is a common addict lifestyle that can lead to contiguous infections.
Opioids and Alcohol were also shown to be more toxic compared to the least ranked drug-user communities: Tobacco/nicotine/vaping, Marijuana, and Hallucinogens. The reason for this varying trend can be linked to the side effects of each drug. For example, tobacco/nicotine is addictive but has no serious mental or psychological effects. Marijuana, on the other hand, has been widely studied with major concerns pointed on the side effects of smoking it.
Drug Subreddits with The Highest Proportion of Swear Words
The use of swear or offensive words was shown to be highly prevalent among Opioid users, with a score of 10. Meth and Heroin users came second and third with a score of 8.52 and 8.02, respectively. Tobacco/nicotine/vaping, Marijuana, and Alcohol users recorded the least scores: 0, 1.32, and 1.62, respectively.
Opioids are medically used for severe pain relief but have been abused due to their pleasurable effects. The high proportion of swear words used among Opioid, Meth, and Heroin users can be attributed to the sudden change in social behavior, which is a common side effect. One study has also linked cursing with increased risk-taking, i.e., using hard drugs, drinking excessively, and engaging in risky sexual behaviors.
Drug Subreddits with The Highest Proportion of Violent Activities
Alcohol users recorded the highest score (10) as far as engaging in violent activities is concerned. Heroin and stimulant users ranked second and third, with a score of 9.55 and 8.81, respectively. Sedative, Marijuana, and Tobacco/nicotine/vaping users showed the least tendencies of becoming violent with scores of 0, 0.41, and 0.86, respectively.
The link between alcohol and aggression has been studied, and one thing that comes out clearly is that people who would naturally express their anger will do so more frequently and intensely when they are drunk. This heightened response to the slightest of provocation was also noted among Heroin and Stimulant users. A stimulant drug speeds up the central nervous system and increases the neural activity in the brain. An example of a stimulant is a group of drugs called methylphenidates and dextroamphetamine.
Drug Subreddits with The Highest Proportion of Mentally Negative Activities
Depression is a common long-term side effect of hard drugs: cocaine, heroin, meth, etc. From our rankings, Sedative users recorded the highest and the maximum score of 10. Alcohol (8.48) and Stimulant users (8.34) also recorded the highest scores.
On the other hand, Tobacco/Nicotine/vaping (0), Kratom (0.83), and Hallucinogens users (1.0) had the least proportion of mentally negative activities.
Sedative drugs are commonly used to treat anxiety and sleep problems. Regular use of these drugs can lead to dependency and addiction. Sedative users happened to be the most mentally negative people with suicidal tendencies, self-harm thoughts, and constantly being in a bad mood or depressed.
Drug subreddits with The Highest Proportion of Mentally Positive Activities
A couple of drug users were also shown to have mentally positive activities and thoughts. Ranking on top in this category is the MDMA (ecstasy/molly) users with a score of 10. Tobacco/nicotine/vaping and stimulant users followed closely with scores of 8.41 and 7.82, respectively. The least ranked in this category are Heroin, Marijuana, and Hallucinogen users with scores: 0, 1.15, and 1.25, respectively.
The results from this trend can be attributed to the side effects of the specific drug. For example, an NCBI research study shows that MDMA affects responses to emotional stimuli, and this could be the reason for the high proportion of mentally positive thoughts and activities.
Fair Use Statement
If you know someone who could benefit from our findings, feel free to share this project with them. The graphics and content are available for noncommercial reuse. All we ask is that you link back to this page so that readers get all the necessary information and we receive proper credit.