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Comparison of Methods for Recruiting Suburban Opioid Users for Research

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Background: Increasing opioid use among young people contributes to multiple harms including overdose, and HIV and hepatitis C virus infections. Objective: We conducted a study to test and compare internet-based methods for recruiting young suburban residents for research on opioid use and risk behaviors. Methods: We used a multi-pronged advertising strategy to recruit young adults (18-29 years) residing in the suburbs surrounding the City of Chicago to an online survey to test the feasibility of using these methods to recruit people who used opioids in the past 30 days for a research study. Results: Over 1,000 survey responses were recorded during 13 weeks, of which 60% (n = 606) were valid and at least 90% complete. Survey completers were 61% male, and 65% non-Hispanic white, with a mean age of 21. Six percent of respondents (n = 34) reported misuse of prescription pain relievers in the past 30 days, and 1% (n = 6) reported recent heroin use. Of the 38 respondents who were eligible for the telephone interview, 26 (68%) indicated that they were interested in learning more about the research study, and 24 provided contact information. Conclusion: Facebook/Instagram advertising appears to be a useful online resource for identifying and recruiting suburban opioid users for research, with a cost of about $20 per subject. Craigslist and reddit, while free, are slower and less efficient as they require staff time to continually re-post, but may be worthwhile to include as part of a multi-pronged strategy.


University of Illinois at Chicago School of Public Health Seed Fund