The Pursuit of Peer Support for Opioid Use Recovery on Reddit


  • Duilio Balsamo Bocconi University, Milan, Italy University of Turin, Turin, Italy
  • Paolo Bajardi CENTAI, Turin, Italy ISI Foundation, Turin, Italy
  • Gianmarco De Francisci Morales CENTAI, Turin, Italy ISI Foundation, Turin, Italy
  • Corrado Monti CENTAI, Turin, Italy ISI Foundation, Turin, Italy
  • Rossano Schifanella University of Turin, Turin, Italy ISI Foundation, Turin, Italy



Web and Social Media, Organizational and group behavior mediated by social media; interpersonal communication mediated by social media, Subjectivity in textual data; sentiment analysis; polarity/opinion identification and extraction, linguistic analyses of social media behavior


Individuals suffering from Opioid Use Disorder and other socially stigmatized conditions often rely on peer support groups to find comfort and motivation while treating their condition. Many may face barriers in accessing peer support treatment, such as shame and social stigma, seclusion, or mobility restrictions. In this study, we quantitatively characterize the potential of the Reddit community in offering these individuals an online alternative to receiving peer support. By analyzing the social interactions of thousands of users during the start of opioid use recovery, we uncover that a particular Reddit community exhibits many characteristics similar to in-person peer support groups, featuring the exchange of support, trust, status, and similar experiences. We find that the supportive behavior of this community nudges users to change their personal behavior, and promotes abandoning opioid-related communities in favor of recovery-oriented relationships. Finally, we find that recognition, acknowledgment, and knowledge exchange are the most relevant factors in sustained engagement with the recovery community. Given this evidence, we suggest that this online community may constitute a complement or a surrogate to peer support groups when in-person meetings are not desirable or possible. Our work might inspire harm reduction policies and interventions to favor successful rehabilitation and is fundamental for future research about the use of digital media for recovery support.




How to Cite

Balsamo, D., Bajardi, P., De Francisci Morales, G., Monti, C., & Schifanella, R. (2023). The Pursuit of Peer Support for Opioid Use Recovery on Reddit. Proceedings of the International AAAI Conference on Web and Social Media, 17(1), 12-23.