Researchers from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine sought to determine symptoms of nicotine dependence and withdrawal amongst Juul users, by analyzing Twitter comments.

The study titled, “I wake up and hit the JUUL: Analyzing Twitter for JUUL Nicotine Effects and Dependence,” indicated that 1 out of every 5 Juul-related tweets mentioned addiction in one way or another.

“Many news stories have reported that people are using JUUL and experiencing what sound like acute effects of nicotine exposure and symptoms of dependence,” said lead study author Jaime Sidani, Ph.D., assistant director of Pitt’s Center for Research on Media, Technology, and Health. “We turned to Twitter to gather real-time data on what people are sharing about their JUUL use.”

To extract the data, Sidani and her team created search filters within Twitter‘s Filtered Streams by highlighting the terms “juul,” “juuls” and “juuling,” as well as their hashtag equivalents between April 11, 2018, and June 16, 2018.

After excluding commercial content and narrowing the search results further, the researchers were left with 1,986 tweets for further analysis. Of these 21.1% (335) were related to dependence, 189 to nicotine effects, and 42 to quitting JUUL or withdrawal, or both.

Users seemed surprised at their level of dependence.

“We found many self-reported symptoms of nicotine dependence,” said co-author A. Everette James, J.D., director of the Pitt Health Policy Institute and interim dean of Pitt’s Graduate School of Public Health. “Because of the lack of public knowledge about the dependence risks, it makes sense that many people seemed surprised about experiencing symptoms of withdrawal when they could not use their device.”

Sidani and her team aim to explore the social conversation surrounding JUUL and its addictive properties further. “By leveraging real-time data from the Twitter platform, we can research timely health trends on an unprecedented scale,” said co-author Jason Colditz, M.Ed., program coordinator at Pitt’s Center for Research on Media, Technology, and Health. “In this study, we detected candid narratives related to JUUL dependence, a relatively recent public health trend that deserves further investigation.”  

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