Fact or Fiction: Finding the Truth Online about Drug Information
The internet can be your biggest resource in finding health information, but it also can be one of the biggest sources of misinformation. Finding accurate and nonbiased information regarding drugs and your health can be a difficult but important task. Having the right information available and knowing where to find it is critical to the decisions you make regarding your health.
Due to the fact that medically accurate drug information and its effects on your health can be hard to find, here are some tips for finding the best health information possible:
- What is the goal of the website or article? If the website is trying to sell you something, then you might want to look elsewhere for information. The articles you use to make your informed decisions should be nonbiased, simply giving you the facts you need to know, not making any promises of health outcomes. If there are several ads, pop-ups, or hyperlinks that bring you to a retail listing, this can be a red flag of poor information. Endorsements and personal testimonies should also be questioned.
- Is the content you are reading cited? Health information should be current and cited. Since the health and medicine fields are consistently learning new information from research being conducted, check to make sure the information you are reviewing is up to date. Preferably look for information that has been updated within the past three years. Look for information that is based on science and research. You should be able to use the citations of the article to see the background information used to write the article you are reading. (Use the citations of this article to find more information about evaluation of health information online.)
- What kind of resource are you reviewing? Sticking to governmental, educational, and professional resources is a safe way to know if you are reviewing accurate information. Company websites (i.e., .com websites) should be reviewed especially carefully as their main objective may be to sell you their product or sway your opinion rather than inform you on a matter.
- Use your resources! Your campus has many resources available to you. Check in with your health center or counseling services on campus. You may have a professor or a peer health group on campus that can help point you toward the information you need. Consider speaking with your health care provider if you don’t feel comfortable using an on-campus resource.
The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health uses the following five questions to evaluate if the health information you are looking at is accurate:
- Who runs or created the site or app? Can you trust them?
- What is the site or app promising or offering? Do its claims seem too good to be true?
- When was its information written or reviewed? Is it up-to-date?
- Where does the information come from? Is it based on scientific research?
- Why does the site or app exist? Is it selling something?
Ask questions and be skeptical when looking for the information you need. The better information you have, the better decisions you can make.
Hopkinsmedicine.org. (n.d.). Finding Reliable Health Information Online. [online] Available at www.hopkinsmedicine.org/johns_hopkins_bayview/patient_visitor_amenities/
community_health_library/finding_reliable_health_information_online.html [Accessed 7 Jul. 2019].
Medlineplus.gov. (2019). Evaluating Health Information. [online] Available at https://medlineplus.gov/evaluatinghealthinformation.html [Accessed 5 Jul. 2019].
National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. (2018). Finding and Evaluating Online Resources. [online] Available at https://nccih.nih.gov/health/webresources [Accessed 5 Jul. 2019].
University of Washington (n.d.). Finding Accurate Health Information on the Web. [online] Available at https://depts.washington.edu/uwcphn/qhi/toolkit/tips.shtml [Accessed 6 Jul. 2019].
September Johnson serves as the Director of Health Education at Wesleyan University. She is a tobacco treatment specialist and certified health education specialist. September earned her master’s in public health from the Boston University School of Public Health. In her time at Wesleyan, September has implemented a tobacco and vape-free policy, started a party registration program in collaboration with residential life, and developed and coordinated a campus-wide campaign titled “#PartySaferWes” which is dedicated to prevention efforts surrounding high-risk substance use and safer sex practices. September has a special interest in alcohol and other drugs, sexual health, and harm reduction in higher education.