How Reddit Supports Sobriety

We created a focused analysis of what is important to people who turn to Reddit as an extension or replacement for more traditional recovery methods, such as group therapy, 12-step programs, or rehab.

Why Did We Create Original Data from Reddit?

Nearly 1 in 12 American adults are estimated to have alcoholism or substance use disorder.1 This includes binge-drinking and other problematic alcohol use, as well as addiction to substances, such as marijuana, cocaine, heroin, meth, and others, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).

Most people who need treatment for substance abuse don’t actually get it in a typical year, though. In fact, according to SAMHSA, among adults 26 and older with a substance use disorder, less than 1 in 5 received treatment in 2018.2

While formal treatment programs are the ideal way to recover from drug or alcohol addiction for most people, even after completing a treatment program, a lifetime of support is needed to ensure a happy, healthy, normal life.

Why is Reddit Important?

For many, social networking can help provide this ongoing support. There’s one platform in particular that many people turn to for strength, advice, and just getting things off their chest — Reddit.

Drawing an estimated 1.3 billion visits in a typical month, Reddit — or, as it prefers to be known, the front page of the internet — allows people to come together around any number of interest areas, from sports and entertainment to politics and pets.3 And for those who are actively dealing with addiction or substance abuse, are currently in recovery, are family members of someone with a substance use disorder or are simply interested in learning more about these issues, Reddit has several very active subreddits.

What topics are most common on the active addiction-related subreddits, and what can we learn about the shape of the Reddit recovery community?

How We Created Our New Data

To more fully understand the types of addiction- and substance abuse-related discussions taking place on Reddit, we analyzed the top posts and accompanying comments on a total of 15 substance use- or addiction-related subreddits. We analyzed a total of 334 posts and 5,261 comments on those posts, looking for things like which subs are the most popular, what types of posts are most common, what words and phrases appear most often throughout posts and comments, and more. We did not analyze all posts ever on each of the subs but rather limited our study to the top 25 (at most) on each of the 15 subs.

Subreddits We Reviewed

Here’s a list of the 15 subreddits we analyzed and what they focus on:

Alcoholism

r/stopdrinking

r/alcoholism

r/alcoholicsanonymous

r/alanon

Cigarettes & Smoking

r/stopsmoking

Addiction

r/sober

r/addictionprevention

r/treatmentforaddiction

r/drugdetox

r/rehabandrecovery

r/addiction

Marijuana

r/leaves

Opiates

r/opiatesrecovery

Stimulants

r/stopspeeding

Heroin

r/heroinrecovery

Read on for our full analysis, but here are a few interesting tidbits about our data:

  • By far, the most commonly used words and phrases in the nearly 6,000 posts and comments we analyzed were about getting help — in other words, they were hopeful.
  • The word “sober” appeared more frequently than any other related term, including variations that added time elements, such as “days sober” or “years sober”; “help” was the second most-common.
  • Two subs related to alcoholism (r/alcoholism and r/stopdrinking) had the highest rate of engagement per post.

Reddit’s Addiction Communities

We analyzed posts and comments for 15 subreddits focused on at least one aspect of substance abuse or addiction, but many more subreddits are out there, including ones about addiction as well as those that focus on discussing drugs and alcohol generally or positively.

So let’s take a look at which of these communities have the most members and which get the most traffic and engagement from users.

r/stopdrinking219,000
r/leaves118,000
r/stopsmoking101,000
r/addiction38,700
r/alcoholism29,300
r/opiatesrecovery23,600
r/acloholicsanonymous20,800
r/alanon20,300
r/stopspeeding8,500
r/sober8,200
r/addictionprevention808
r/heroinrecovery557
r/treatmentforaddiction300
r/drugdetox124
r/rehabandrecovery124

It’s no surprise that many of these subs are as popular as they are. That’s because an estimated 47 million Americans are regular cigarette smokers, 16.6 million are heavy drinkers, and nearly 1 in 5 have used illicit drugs in the past year, including marijuana.

It’s no surprise that many of these subs are as popular as they are. That’s because an estimated 47 million Americans are regular cigarette smokers, 16.6 million are heavy drinkers, and nearly 1 in 5 have used illicit drugs in the past year, including marijuana.

Average Comments Per Post by Subreddit

r/stopdrinking24.6
r/alcoholism24.4
r/stopsmoking24.2
r/opiatesrecovery23.9
r/addiction23
r/leaves22.6
r/alcoholicsanonymous22.5
r/alanon22.4
r/sober14.6
r/heroinrecovery6.2
r/addictionprevention1.2
r/drugdetox0.8
r/rehabandrecovery0.4

R/Addiction

“6 years heroin free today”

I have finally been sober for longer than I used. I never thought this day would come. I still struggle everyday but it does get easier. Feel free to ask anything. I just needed somewhere to share my accomplishment. I think I will celebrate! submitted by /u/slammed_sam

It’s All About Recovery

As one might expect, almost all the posts we analyzed were, in one way or another, a celebration of staying or getting sober, encouragement for others, or attempts to encourage and brighten the days of people dealing with substance abuse, alcoholism, and addiction. After all, we limited our scope to people who are at least interested in recovery from addiction; otherwise, they would spend their time in other subreddits.

About 1 in 3 posts marked sobriety anniversaries, which ranged from just a few hours to 40 years. This makes sobriety celebrations the single most common theme among the posts we analyzed.

Sample Posts

Here’s a sample of some of those posts and the subreddits they came from:

r/alcoholicsanonymous

  • 23 years sober as of yesterday.
  • 40 Years Today!
  • Clock just struck 12am, I am now sober 2 years.
  • Got my white chip in front of 500 people last night
  • I made 16 years yesterday!

r/addiction

  • 1 year clean
  • 150 days clean. F*ck heroin.
  • 2,555 days SOBER! (That’s 7 years, in case you’re wondering…)
  • 6 years heroin free today

r/leaves

  • 46 days clean, and I shot my bong to celebrate never going back!

r/opiatesrecovery

  • 365 days no opiates

r/sober

  • 100 days off heroin
  • 15 years. 1/2 my life. So grateful.
  • 34 months sober

r/stopdrinking

  • I’ve been sober 361 out of the last 365 days, that’s a 98.9% success rate.

Who Are Posts About?

About 6 in 10 posts (202 total) were about the original poster, which includes posts like the first-person sobriety anniversary posts listed above. But this also includes posts where the writer is not the subject of the post, such as when writing about a friend or relative.

Tragedies and Successes

And sadly, many of these types of posts were tragic, revealing details about loved ones who’d lost their battles against addiction and other mental health struggles, and 36 posts referenced deaths of friends and family members of original posters.

Most Common Discussion Topics

As we mentioned, posts and comments that reference help and sobriety are by far the most common phrases in the discussions that we analyzed, appearing at a combined rate of 18.1 per 100 words, about triple the rate of the next-most-common term. Here’s a breakdown of the terms that appear most frequently, according to our analysis:

Terms and Phrases Per 100 Posts and Comments

Sober9.44
Help8.61
Alcohol6.38
Quit6.26
Addiction4.63
Love4.52
Drinking4.49
Clean4.31
Sobriety4.08
Smoking tobacco/cigarettes3.88
Happy2.9
Stop/stopped2.32
Died/dead/death2.04
Heroin1.95
Free1.39
Strong1.38
Weed1.2
Rehab1.16
Share0.86
Wife0.79
Daughter0.68
Money0.68
Relapse0.66
Son0.63
Husband0.59
Booze0.52
Therapy0.52
Beer0.48
Counselor/counseling0.48
Overdose0.46
Mother0.45
Father0.39
Opiates0.39
Therapist0.36
Encouragement0.29
Jail0.25
Meth0.25
Disease0.25
Cocaine0.23
Marijuana0.21
Suicide0.18
Vodka0.13
Whiskey0.11
Tequila0.02

* (Includes years sober, hours sober, days sober, months sober)

In total, the specific terms and phrases we analyzed appeared 4,500 times.

The next section will take a closer look at which types of terms and conversations are most common in the Reddit addiction community.

R/Opiatesrecovery

“Dboy tries to win back my business.”

Today I’ve been clean for 14 days, the most I’ve been clean for a decade. I assume my dealer noticed his money a little shorter than usual and he came to my house with a present. He brought me four oxy 30s and said he hadn’t heard from me in a minute and wanted to make sure I was set up and not “hurting.” I told him that I was short on money and couldn’t afford any pills lately and that I appreciated his gift. We chatted a few minutes and he was on his way, probably to make some more guy wait an hour until he decided to “pull up.” I didn’t take the oxys, I flushed those damn things down the toilet. This might not seem so courageous or extremely difficult to do for some people, but for me this was the strongest I’ve ever been in my life. I’ve never wanted something so much yet didn’t want it at all. With the flush of that toilet I made a statement to myself and I feel even more resolute in my recovery now. I just wanted share this moment of resilience to my addiction with you guys. I’ve never been one for accolades or someone who toots their own horn, but damn I’ve proud of myself! submitted by /u/Bluescorpion76

Terms and Phrases by the Percentages

Recovery-related Terms

As expected in an analysis that focused on online communities that formed around the notion of recovery from addiction, alcoholism, and substance use disorder, the idea that terms like “help” and “quit” are the most common should come as no surprise. Still, these specific terms are incredibly common, appearing in a combined 51% of all posts and comments.

  • Recovery Related Terms Appearing in 51% of All Posts and Comments 51% 51%

Focusing only on recovery-related terms, few posters or commenters use overly scientific language to describe addiction, alcoholism, and substance use disorder. In fact, less than 1% of all posts and comments in the 15 subs we studied used the word “disease.”

About 2,200 words and phrases were classified as relating directly to recovery. Here’s a look at how they compare to each other:

Terms and Phrases as Percentage of Recovery-related Words

Sober23%
Help21%
Quit15.2%
Addiction11.3%
Clean10.5%
Sobriety9.9%
Stop/stopped5.7%
Rehab2.8%
Disease0.6%

Alcohol

Alcohol is the third-most common topic among the words and phrases we analyzed, and multiple subs are devoted entirely to alcoholism and recovery from problem drinking. Alcohol is the only specific addictive substance that appears in the top 10 of the most commonly discussed topics.

A large number of posts related to sobriety anniversaries were from alcohol-related subs, but looking only at terms that are specifically related to alcohol, about 675 words are strictly related to alcohol alone.

Terms and Phrases as Percentage of Alcohol-Related Words

Alcohol52.7%
Drinking37%
Booze4.3%
Beer4%
Vodka1%
Whiskey0.9%
Tequila0.1%

Other Substances

Outside of alcohol, tobacco is the most commonly referenced substance in recovery-related discussions, the only non-alcohol substance among the top 10. But heroin and weed are mentioned at a combined rate of about 3.36 per 100 words, putting them in second and third, respectively.

All told, these other substances are mentioned nearly 500 times in posts and comments, with tobacco accounting for nearly half of these mentions.

Terms and Phrases as A Percentage of All Non-Alcohol Words About Substances

Smoking tobacco/cigarettes47.8%
Heroin24%
Marijuana17.4%
Opiates4.8%
Meth3.1%
Cocaine2.9%

R/Heroinrecovery

“I died today”

I got sober 4 1/2 years ago. Went to the methadone clinic for a few years. All was well until last November 2019. I’ve been using on and off the past few months. I graduated from heroin to pure fentanyl. I did some this afternoon and woke up in the middle of the street. My friend breathed for me for 6 minutes until EMTs got there. Hit me with 4mg of narcan and I finally came to. They said I died technically. My heart stopped. The CPR and narcan brought me back. I’m having an emotionally hard time processing this. No one even knows because I was out of the emergency room in less than 2 hours. I just needed to tell someone, anyone. I’m done this time, for good. This was my wake up call. submitted by /u/moonchild_xo

Family

Wives and daughters appear in posts and comments more regularly, which may be due in part to the fact that men are more likely than women to use illicit drugs, and men generally have higher rates of alcohol use and alcoholism.4 Still, all four are more commonly referenced than mothers and fathers.

These familial ties are referenced just under 200 times across all posts and comments.

Terms As Percentage of Family-Related Words

Wife22.3%
Daughter19.3%
Son17.8%
Husband16.8%
Mother12.7%
Father11.2%

Mental Health-related Terms

About 3.7 million people received substance abuse treatment in 2018, SAMHSA reported. Whether formal treatment or not, many people in the addiction community are familiar with terms related to mental health and addiction services. Terms related to therapy and treatment for addiction are among the least common, but the most frequently appearing among those is “relapse,” which appeared at a rate of just under 1 per 100 words in posts and comments.

Words related to mental health (with the exception of “rehab”) appear about 140 times. “Relapse” was referenced in more than 1 in 4 of these terms.

Terms As Percentage of Treatment-Related Words

Relapse26.6%
Therapy20.9%
Counselor/counseling19.4%
Overdose18.7%
Therapist14.4%

R/Stopdrinking

“My fiancée died unexpectedly today. I’m going to need some help.”

She died in her sleep next to me. Age 30. I did CPR. Being a professional rescuer, I knew she was beyond saving, but I had to try. Guys this is really fucking me up. I’m probably going to look for other subreddits for ways to cope with this, but I’m going to need help with sobriety too. 231 days. I need to make it to 232. Thanks. submitted by /u/SmirnOffTheSauce

Other Words

The sixth most-common word in our analysis was “love,” appearing at a rate of about 4.5 per 100 words, more often than “clean,” “sobriety,” or “smoking.” Among other terms that don’t fit with other buckets of terms, most are positive, like “love,” “happy,” or “strong.”

These eight topics account for more than 600 instances combined.

Terms And Phrases as Percentage of Emotional, Legal, or other Terms

Love40.9%
Happy26.2%
Strong12.5%
Share7.8%
Money6.1%
Encouragement2.6%
Jail2.3%
Suicide1.6%

Our Data Shows Sobriety is Supported Through Reddit

In an ideal world, everybody who needs help to recover from substance abuse would get all the assistance they need. But remaining sober is a lifelong process, and everybody who experiences addiction and accepts the need for recovery needs ongoing help from time to time. There’s no doubt that some elements of social networking have been shown to be negative, but the data indicates that Reddit-based addiction communities are an ideal place for positivity and encouragement throughout the recovery journey.


Resources

  1. https://www.samhsa.gov/data/sites/default/files/reports/rpt23236/NSDUHsaeShortTermCHG2018_1/NSDUHsaeShortTermCHG2018.pdf
  2. https://www.samhsa.gov/data/sites/default/files/cbhsq-reports/NSDUHNationalFindingsReport2018/NSDUHNationalFindingsReport2018.pdf
  3. https://www.statista.com/statistics/443332/reddit-monthly-visitors/
  4. https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/substance-use-in-women/sex-gender-differences-in-substance-use
Let us walk you through the treatment process. We're here to help. 100% Free and Confidential.
1 (866) 338-6925
Let us walk you through the treatment process. We're here to help.
100% Free and Confidential.
1 (866) 338-6925