Scientists used AI to link cryptomarkets with substance abusers on Reddit and Twitter


An international team of researchers recently developed an AI system that brings together information from dark web cryptomarkets, Twitter, and Reddit to better understand drug addicts.

Don’t worry, it doesn’t track sales or expose users. It helps scientists better understand how drug addicts feel and the terms they use to describe their experiences.

The relationship between mental health and addiction is well studied in clinical settings, but how users discuss and interact with each other in the real world remains beyond the scope of most scientific studies.

According to the team document:

Recent results from the Global Drug Survey suggest that the percentage of participants who purchased drugs through cryptomarkets has tripled since 2014, reaching 15% of 2020 respondents (GDS).

In this study, we are evaluating social media data from active opioid users to understand what behaviors are associated with opioid use in order to identify the types of feelings expressed. We use deep learning models to perform sentiment and emotion analysis of social media data with cryptomarket-derived drug entities.

The team developed an AI to explore three popular cryptomarkets where drugs are sold to determine nuanced information about what people were looking for and buying.

Then, they explored popular drug-related subreddits on Reddit, such as r / opiates and r / drugnerds, for articles related to cryptomarket terminology to garner emotional sentiments. Where researchers found difficulty pulling together enough Reddit posts with an easy-to-tag emotional sentiment, they found Twitter posts with relevant hashtags to fill in the gaps.

The end result was a cornucopia of data that allowed the team to determine a strong analysis of emotional feelings for various substances.

Going forward, the team hopes to find a way to gain better access to Dark Web cryptomarkets in order to build stronger sentiment patterns. The ultimate goal of the project is to help healthcare professionals better understand the relationship between mental health and addiction.

According to the team’s article:

To identify the best strategies to reduce opioid misuse, it is necessary to better understand the sales of drugs on cryptomarkets that impact consumption and how they reflect discussions on social media.

Published March 30, 2021 – 21:03 UTC


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