Using the Internet to research hidden populations of illicit drug users : a review

Miller, Peter and Sonderlund, Anders L. 2010, Using the Internet to research hidden populations of illicit drug users : a review, Addiction, vol. 105, no. 9, pp. 1557-1567, doi: 10.1111/j.1360-0443.2010.02992.x.

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Title Using the Internet to research hidden populations of illicit drug users : a review
Author(s) Miller, PeterORCID iD for Miller, Peter
Sonderlund, Anders L.
Journal name Addiction
Volume number 105
Issue number 9
Start page 1557
End page 1567
Total pages 11
Publisher Wiley-Blackwell Publishing Ltd.
Place of publication Oxford, England
Publication date 2010-09
ISSN 0965-2140
Keyword(s) Ecstasy
Hidden populations
Illicit drug use
Party drugs
Research methods
Summary Aims To review the current research of hidden populations of illicit drugs users using web-based methods and discuss major advantages and disadvantages.

Methods Systematic review of 16 databases, including PubMed, PsycINFO (EBSCOhost), CSA Sociological Abstracts, Expanded Academic ASAP and Google Scholar.

Findings Substances researched were most commonly ‘party/club drugs’ (such as ecstasy) and cannabis. All of the studies reviewed concluded that the internet is a useful tool for reaching hidden populations, but is likely to impose some bias in samples. Advantages include: access to previously under-researched target groups; speed; international applications; increased ease of data entry; and improved confidentiality for respondents. The major disadvantage is a lack of representativeness of samples.

Conclusions Internet research is successful at accessing hidden populations of illicit drugs users, when appropriately targeted and provides unprecedented opportunities for research across a wide range of topics within the addictions field. Findings are unlikely to be generalisable to the general public, but appropriate for describing target populations.
Language eng
DOI 10.1111/j.1360-0443.2010.02992.x
Field of Research 170199 Psychology not elsewhere classified
Socio Economic Objective 920414 Substance Abuse
HERDC Research category C1 Refereed article in a scholarly journal
HERDC collection year 2010
Copyright notice ©2010, The Authors
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Document type: Journal Article
Collections: Faculty of Health
School of Psychology
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