It’s safe to say that Google’s advanced search algorithms return search results that reflect the dominant content the globe is seeking on any given topic. So, what do Google search results tell us about what the world thinks when it comes to opioids?
National Pain Report went to Google and asked that very question. And, here is what Google tells us.
When you type in “opioids” into Google search, the search engine goliath returns 5,730,000 pages of content. That’s a lot to cull through, so, thanks to Google’s algorithms, the browser makes calculations on which of those 5+ million pages are most relevant to you, the searcher. Fewer than 15% of people ever even click the “Next” button to see results past the second page, so that’s where we focused our attention.
When we searched “opioids”, there were 24 results (non-advertisements) on the first two pages of Google. We reviewed each of the results to determine if the content was:
- “About Pain” (supported or reflected the proper use of opioids for the treatment of pain)
- “About Abuse” (supported or reflected the misuse of opioids, addiction or death)
- “About Both” (supported or reflected both proper and improper use of opioids)
- “About Law” (supported or reflected content about arrests related to opioids)
Only 4% of content related to “opioids” exclusively reflects the proper use of opioids to treat pain.
92% of content related to “opioids” includes abuse, addiction or death.
Only 46% of content related to “opioids” includes the proper use of opioids to treat pain.
That’s pretty telling. The “Internet Machine” suggests that when the world thinks about opioids, it’s thinking addiction, abuse and death – not proper and legal use of opioids. But, does this add up to the real numbers, or does it seem to reflect current trends in media, government and society (or big business)?
According to the CDC, about 12 million Americans abused or were dependent on opioids in 2013. We used trusted Google to see if we could find the number of people who legally and properly use opioids in an effort to look at the size of this group (and we know it is HUGE). With that number we would then be able to (however loosely) see if Google is exposing searchers to a reflective point of view on opioids.
Guess what? That number (how many people legally and properly use opioids) is elusive. And here’s why.
Ask Google a question, and you reliably get the exact answer you’re searching for, right?
Thanks Google. You made our point. We don’t blame you. But, you are making things worse!
There is a major message that is being driven by government and media. Just look at the first four Google search results above – all are US Government entities. And, all of them are related to addiction, misuse, or the drug epidemic, something the government seems to believe is the only thing that opioids do.
And, the next two search results? Big media with punishing headlines.
The Washington Post article titled, “The legal drug epidemic” leads off with this, “When is this country going to wake up — really wake up — to the catastrophe that prescription opioid painkillers have caused since they came into widespread use in the early 1990s?” Thanks Google for answering the question about legal use of opioids with this.
CNN says that the FDA approval of a new pill to treat pain is… “Genuinely Frightening.” When a new cholesterol drug gained FDA approval, CNN’s headline was, “FDA approves second in new class of cholesterol lowering drugs.” When the FDA approved Addyi, CNN’s headline was, “’Female Viagra’ gets FDA approval.”
So, why is a new pill to treat pain “genuinely frightening?”
It’s because the “message” is that opioids are only about addiction and overdose and not about legal and proper use of important medicines.
Thanks Google. Thanks government. Thanks media. You’re working very well together.