Inference of the Russian drug community from one of the largest social networks in the Russian Federation


The criminal nature of narcotics complicates the direct assessment of a drug community, while having a good understanding of the type of people drawn or currently using drugs is vital for finding effective intervening strategies. Especially for the Russian Federation this is of immediate concern given the dramatic increase it has seen in drug abuse since the fall of the Soviet Union in the early nineties. Using unique data from the Russian social network ‘LiveJournal’ with over 39 million registered users worldwide, we were able for the first time to identify the on-line drug community by context sensitive text mining of the users’ blogs using a dictionary of known drug-related official and ‘slang’ terminology. By comparing the interests of the users that most actively spread information on narcotics over the network with the interests of the individuals outside the on-line drug community, we found that the ‘average’ drug user in the Russian Federation is generally mostly interested in topics such as Russian rock, non-traditional medicine, UFOs, Buddhism, yoga and the occult. We identify three distinct scale-free sub-networks of users which can be uniquely classified as being either ‘infectious’, ‘susceptible’ or ‘immune’.

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  1. 1.

    LiveJournal is available at (English) and (Russian).

  2. 2.

    Facebook is available at

  3. 3.

    Twitter is available at

  4. 4.

    LiveJournal’s own statistics page can be found at

  5. 5.

    The homepage of SPb IAC can be found at (in Russian).

  6. 6.

    The full drug-dictionary is freely available and can be downloaded at

  7. 7.

    The number of phrases (8,359) is rather high in comparison to the number of words (368) in this dictionary. This is due to the fact that we consider a phrase consisting, for example, of the words ‘injecting’, ‘heroin’ and the phrase with the words ‘injection’, ‘heroin’ and ‘needle’ as two separate expressions (where the latter is associated with a higher weight than the former).

  8. 8.

    A \(\chi ^2\) test originally designed for \(2 \times 2\) contingency tables by Sir R. A. Fisher (1922).

  9. 9.

    Strictly speaking, the expected false discovery rate is only upper bounded when the \(m\) test statistics are independent, which does not hold in this particular case. B. Efron makes the case in his book Large-Scale Inference (2010) that this independency constraint is not strong.

  10. 10.

    The governmental statistics agency of the Russian Federation. They can be found at (in Russian) with links to their rather extensive database.

  11. 11.

    A rank/frequency log–log plot is the plot of the occurrence frequency versus the rank on logarithmically scaled axes. For a more elaborate description on how to construct such a plot, see the paper by Newman (2005), Appendix.


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The authors thank Dr. Sergey Mityagin from the Saint Petersburg Information and Analytical Center (SPb IAC) for fruitful discussions on the drug addiction profiles in the Russian Federation. In addition, the authors would like to express their gratitude to Prof. Dr. T.K. Dijkstra from the University of Groningen (RUG) and the Free University Amsterdam (VU) for introducing us with false discovery rate control and his useful remarks. This work is supported by the Leading Scientist Program of the Russian Federation, contract 11.G34.31.0019, as well as by the Complexity program of NTU, Singapore. Peter Sloot also acknowledges the support from the FET-Proactive Grant TOPDRIM, Number FP7-ICT-318121.

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Correspondence to P. M. A. Sloot.

Additional information

L. J. Dijkstra and A. V. Yakushev share first authorship of this work.

Appendix: LiveJournal user interests

Appendix: LiveJournal user interests

Figure 6a shows the frequency of occurrence of interests within the crawled population. Note that the distribution is heavy right-tailed; its slope suggests that the distribution might follow a power-law, see Eq. (5). Figure 6b shows the corresponding rank/frequency log–log plot of the histogram in Fig. 6a. The exponent \(\gamma \approx 1.54\) and the start of the distribution \(x_{min} = 3\) were approximated using the maximum likelihood method as proposed by Clauset et al. (2009). Note that the fitted line in Fig. 6b approximates the distribution quite well. The standard goodness-of-fit test (Clauset et al. 2009) indicates there is no reason to believe that the distribution does not follow a power-law, i.e., the \(p\) value was approximately equal to \(0.57\).

Fig. 6

a The histogram of interests expressed by the users in the crawled LiveJournal data set. b The rank/frequency log–log plot of the histogram in 6a and the maximum likelihood power-law fit (\(\gamma \approx 1.54\) and \(x_{min} = 3\))

The fact that the distribution of interests within the SNS LiveJournal is heavy-right tailed explains why the number of susceptible users (see Table 4) is relatively small compared to the other groups.

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Dijkstra, L.J., Yakushev, A.V., Duijn, P.A.C. et al. Inference of the Russian drug community from one of the largest social networks in the Russian Federation. Qual Quant 48, 2739–2755 (2014).

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  • Illicit drug use
  • Drug use
  • Social network
  • LiveJournal
  • Power-law
  • Russian Federation