Discourse on COVID-19 and illicit drug toxicity on social media

This Health System Impact Fellowship is co-funded by ­CIHR Institute of Population and Public Health (CIHR-IPPH), Michael Smith Health Research BC, and the BC Centre for Disease Control (health system partner), to help build BC’s health policy research capacity for the integration of policy research into decision-making.


The illicit drug overdose crisis in North America has had a profound impact on individuals, families and communities, often leading to premature loss of life and lowering of life expectancy. Since 2016, British Columbia (BC) has been experiencing an epidemic of toxic drug supply leading to a large increase in the number of drug overdose events and related deaths. Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) and measures taken to limit the transmission of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), the virus that causes COVID-19, have directly and indirectly disrupted access to healthcare and social services worldwide, including harm reduction and social support services. Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, BC witnessed large increases in drug overdose related deaths, with 2021 being the deadliest year. This requires scaling up of existing interventions and introducing new, targeted interventions to address the overdose crisis. The level and type of response is also affected by the perception of the population towards health issues and debate on intervention options. The information available on social media could help decision makers understand the public discourse about opioid use and intervention options. In this project, the overall aim is to understand public perceptions and discourse related to overdose in social media using Artificial Intelligence (AI) methods and techniques to inform the overdose response.


Source: CIHR Funding Decisions Database