Data Mining Drug Experience

by thewheatandthechaff

An experiment featured in Scientific American’s blog network chronicles where data visualisation and counter-culture collide. By data mining the ‘trip diaries’ of drug users, the subjective experiences of different narcotics is ‘illuminated’ and illustrated here via the medium of word cloud infographics. When this new information is combined with existing scientific drug data, it’s possible to produce new hypotheses about the physiological basis & consequences of drug use.

Ms. Melody set out to explore the language used by people when high on a variety of street drugs. She pulled data from, a website where users chronicle their experiences. Her infographics visualise the words associated with each drug.


The research is similar in methodology to an earlier investigation conducted by University of Berkeley. Jeremy Coyle et al also utilised data from erowid, but their purpose was to see if scientific hypotheses could be generated from the words people attribute to their highs. Research into the effects of drug use can be tricky due to the illegality of many of the substances. Whilst not exactly groundbreaking news, the enterprising spirit of these scientists is exactly what data driven science is all about.

The full blog post is long, but well worth a read. Below are a few more of the cloud infographics generated from the research.