Washington Post graphic
The country’s ongoing drug epidemic, which claimed more than 59,000 lives last year, has left its trace on just about every aspect of American life: politics, religion, family, justice, birth and death.
While most of us are familiar, by now, with the annual drumbeat of official statistics from places like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, online search data offers a window into facets of the epidemic that traditional numbers aren’t great at catching.
One of those is drug withdrawal, the often extremely unpleasant symptoms experienced by people dependent on a substance — whether it’s heroin, marijuana, alcohol or something else — when they try to stop using it.
Data from Google Trends shows that search interest in all topics related to drug withdrawal has roughly doubled over the past decade. Some unknown percentage of these searches are probably from curious people simply looking to learn more about what happens when a person stops using drugs. But several pieces of evidence suggest that these figures reflect a sizeable