Dr. Juan Hincapie-Castillo receives AACP New Investigator Award to evaluate opioid use trends via social media

Juan Hincapie-Castillo, Pharm.D., Ph.D., an assistant professor in the UF College of Pharmacy’s department of pharmaceutical outcomes and policy, has received a $10,000 grant from the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy, or AACP, to identify opioid use trends by analyzing publicly available posts on Reddit.

Juan Hincapie Castillo
Juan Hincapie Castillo, M.S., Pharm.D., Ph.D.

In collaboration with a Stanford University team led by Russ Altman, M.D., Ph.D., Hincapie-Castillo will review data on Reddit from 2005–2018. An algorithm developed by the Stanford team, known as RedMed, will then run the information to identify mentions of drug use.

On a site that relies solely on user-submitted content, recognizing more than just the official terms for opioids is crucial. “In studying oxycodone without RedMed, for example, we would miss more than half of the submissions and comments on Reddit related to the drug,” Hincapie-Castillo said. “The methodology we propose could also be applicable in the future for pharmacovigilance to identify important signals for adverse drug reactions.”

The researchers hope to document four things through their research:

  • Increasing national trends in reporting proportions for illicit opioid use
  • Approximate alignment of breakpoints for the national trends with the times of implementation of restrictive opioid policy
  • Approximate alignment of breakpoints for the national trends for heroin and fentanyl with 2010 and 2013, respectively
  • Significant increases in the reporting proportions of illicit opioid substances after implementation of the Florida Prescription Drug Monitoring Program.