A scoping review of social network analysis in drugs research

Wednesday, 23 November, 2022 - 09:00 to 19:30


Social network analysis (SNA) has been used to study a variety of drug-related research topics, from organized crime to drug use patterns. For the current study, we conducted a scoping review with the aims of describing the body of work in the area of drugs research that has utilized SNA methods, examining the utility of such methods, and identifying research gaps.

The current study followed Arksey and O’Malley’s (2005) guidelines to conduct a scoping review. We searched six databases for articles about drugs and SNA; out of the initial 211 unique results, 67 studies were ultimately included in the review. The studies were coded using a data-charting form to capture information about the aims and methods used. Further, categories were developed to describe the main areas of drugs research found in the studies.

Findings: highlight the multiple ways in which SNA can be used to study drugs from different perspectives. SNA can and has been used in combination with other research methods, both quantitative and qualitative. Drugs research has mainly used SNA to study drug trafficking organizations and the social networks of people who use drugs, although a small number of studies were also concerned with drug policy and the institutions that enforce drug policy.

Results: from the scoping review demonstrate the utility of SNA as a method to study drugs across a variety of disciplines. SNA can provide a different perspective from which to understand drug crimes and drug use. However, future SNA drugs research would benefit from incorporating more qualitative methods (e.g., in-depth interviews and thematic analysis) and from providing more details on the data collection and sampling strategies. While drug crimes and drug use seem to use SNA quite frequently, the field of drug policy has not employed SNA to the same extent.



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