Resources for Monitoring Substance Use Trends
The drug landscape changes constantly as substances and analogues are introduced or used in different ways. As rural communities and providers respond to new challenges, they can find useful information about trends on the websites of federal agencies and national/international organizations. These sites provide, for example, national and state-specific information on fatal and non-fatal overdoses, characteristics of the drug supply, and trends in usage, as well as practical tools and educational messaging. Community websites—containing firsthand information from people who use drugs as well as resources on harm reduction and recovery—can also help in monitoring trends.
Federal agencies and national/international organizations
National Drug Early Warning System (NDEWS)
NDEWS provides timely information on emerging substance use trends. It contains a data section that captures drug-related outcomes, a novel surveillance section that captures emerging trends through artificial intelligence, and a publication section with a wide range of content from indicator dashboards to news briefs, peer-reviewed papers, reports, and webinars.
- Data: The State and National Overdose Web (SNOW) is an interactive dashboard that contains statewide information on drug seizures from high-intensity trafficking areas, poison control data on fentanyl use, and fentanyl concentration in wastewater.
- Novel surveillance: Detects potentially dangerous trends as they emerge through the application of machine learning algorithms deployed to darknet drug markets and forums. It uses information from social media sites to predict trends in new psychoactive substances (NPS). Specifically, it gathers information from drug-related discussion on Reddit, or subreddits dedicated to specific classes of drugs, or more general topics related to drug use or experimentation. Studies have shown that detection of NPS in drug subreddit discussion is predictive of its emergence in toxicology data and other real-world signals.1
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
The CDC’s Unintentional Drug Overdose Reporting System (SUDORS) on drug overdose deaths draws information from toxicology findings. The site is searchable by state and provides data on drug combinations causing overdose deaths. As of March 2023, the database covered overdose fatalities through 2021 in 32 jurisdictions.
National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA)
NIDA supports scientific research on drug use and addiction and provides evidenced-based information on specific drugs and drug combinations. Blogs and press releases provide timely information in drug use trends.
Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA)
The resources section on the DEA website provides information on the illicit drug supply including street names, how and where drugs are being used, and their effects. The site includes publications on current trends driving overdose fatalities and warnings about dangerous developments in the drug supply. Automatic updates are provided via email to those who sign up.
The Center for Forensic Science Research & Education (CFSRE)
CFSRE, an organization focused on research, education, and outreach in forensic science, has an open-access drug early warning system. It offers reports on trends for timely NPS information gathered in collaboration with forensic science, public health, emergency medicine, and criminal justice agencies. The center provides notifications to those interested in signing up.
United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC)
The United Nations puts out an annual World Drug Report, which in 2022 consists of five different booklets: Executive Summary: Policy Implications; Global Overview: Drug Demand, Drug Supply; Drug Market Trends: Cannabis, Opioids; Drug Market Trends: Cocaine, Amphetamine-Type Stimulants, New Psychoactive Substances (NPS); and Drugs and the Environment.
Member websites offer forums in which people describe their experiences with drug use and freely ask questions of others in the community. They may provide information on the experiences people are having with substances and combinations, current terms and slang, and availability and cost of street drugs. Community sites also offer harm reduction and recovery support.
- Please note: These websites contain content generated for and by users of substances, some of which may be novel and unregulated and some classified as controlled substances. The websites here are included for the purpose of providing timely insight into drug use trends from the perspective of the drug user community. The contents, including any advice or recommendations offered by contributors, do not represent the views of the Health Resources & Services Administration (HRSA), UR Medicine Recovery Center of Excellence, or the University of Rochester.
Erowid: A “member-supported organization providing access to reliable, non-judgmental information about psychoactive plants, chemicals and related issues.” Its forums contain a wide range of online discussion involving topics such as experiences while using drugs, drug safety, addiction, harm reduction, and recovery.
Bluelight: An “international, online harm-reduction community committed to reducing the harms associated with drug use.” Its forums contain discussion threads where people may ask questions about drug use that are answered by other members. Harm reduction information and warnings are provided alongside individual posts from members.
StreetRx: Uses crowd sourcing to gather user-submitted data on price and availability, with an interactive map showing prices of common prescription and counterfeit drugs across the country.
Reddit: Opiates: A “discussion of all things related to the narcotics known as opiates, from harm-reduction to pharmacology,” this community forum hosts discussion on a range of topics.
 Barenholtz, E., Krotulski, A. J., Morris, P., Fitzgerald, N. D., Le, A., Papsun, D. M., Logan, B. K., Hahn, W. C., Goldberger, B. A., Cottler, L. B., & Palamar, J. J. (2021). Online surveillance of novel psychoactive substances (NPS): Monitoring Reddit discussions as a predictor of increased NPS-related exposures. International Journal of Drug Policy, 98, 103393.