Twitter is an incredible resource for insight into what’s popular: It’s a good indicator of what cool new tech is trending and what news story is being talked about most. But what if you could use it to monitor what drugs are trending and being talked about the most?
A new site called Drug Talk on Twitter is doing exactly that. It mines the Twitterverse for tweets containing the words weed, alcohol, LSD, cocaine, or meth, and then keeps a running record of how many people are tweeting about each drug today, last week, last month, and since the site began operating at the beginning of the year.
You can see a snapshot of what was trending this month in the image below:
You can see that as the weekend gets closer and people are gearing up for a night out, the alcohol-related tweets go up — a whopping 43% from Thursday to Friday.
The site even displays the eight most recent tweets containing drug- and alcohol-related words. You can watch them roll by in real time. Some of them are hilarious, but similar to Snapchat, the tweets disappear as new ones filter in.
Sam Deford, one of the designers behind the site, said Drug Talk on Twitter began collecting tweets on Jan. 3, and will run continuously to compile data on drug- and alcohol-related speech on Twitter.
Deford said that while what we can learn from Twitter is limited, it can be a good indicator of current alcohol and drug trends and give some insight into public opinion about them.
“For example, we noticed blips and jumps around all that Justin Bieber crap,” Deford said.
How does it work?
Twitter has a publicly-accessible API, so Deford and the other designers were able to pull tweets that matched specific query words.
They included weed, alcohol, LSD, cocaine, meth, and several slang words, but Deford said they found issues with certain words. For example, using “acid” as a synonym for LSD returned too many tweets that weren’t related to the drug at all. But Deford said they searched for as many synonyms as possible that returned reliable results.
The tool was developed as part of projectknow.com — a treatment referral website for drug and alcohol addiction.
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