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2023 Study: Public Perceptions of Cannabis as Medicine

Updated: Apr 30, 2023

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A 2023 study entitled "Using Social Media Data to Investigate Public Perceptions of Cannabis as a Medicine: Narrative Review" that was published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research summarized the results of prior studies that used user-generated posts to social media to investigate the use of cannabis as medicine.


Public Perceptions of Cannabis Study

The objective of the research was to "categorize the insights provided by social media research on cannabis as medicine and describe the role of social media for consumers using medicinal cannabis." It reported that, globally, the use and acceptance of medicinal cannabis is increasing. Due to this, there is a need to research cannabis and its effects, including its safety profile.

The study employed the online databases MEDLINE, Scopus, Web of Science, and Embase and searched them from January 1974 to April 2022.


Public Perceptions of Cannabis Study Results

After removing studies that did not meet its inclusion criteria, the researchers examined 42 prior scientific investigations. They found that "consumers value their ability to exchange experiences on the web and tend to rely on web-based information sources."


Online cannabis discussions often portray the herb as a "safe and natural medicine for cancer, sleep disorders, chronic pain, opioid use disorders, headaches, bowel disease, anxiety, depression, and PTSD."

Cannabis Portrayed as Safe for Many Conditions

The study explained that online cannabis discussions often portray the herb as a "safe and natural medicine to help with many health conditions, including cancer, sleep disorders, chronic pain, opioid use disorders, headaches, asthma, bowel disease, anxiety, depression, and posttraumatic stress disorder."


The researchers noted that the anecdotal information collected is inherently biased in nature and that this fact must be compensated for by any scientific investigations. Its analysis revealed that online dialog regarding the benefits of medicinal use of marijuana portrayed the herb as "an important therapeutic for severe conditions, including pain and terminal conditions such as cancer."


Consumer Reasons for Using Medical Cannabis

Consumers cited many reasons for using cannabis, including relaxation and sleep, enhanced stamina, and also to enhance creativity and problem-solving abilities. Their motives included "failure of conventional treatments, their unwelcome side effects, and a desire to find more natural solutions." This was frequently in the context of a terminal or uncontrolled disease, often associated with severe pain or involving addiction to prescription medications.


"Consumers cited many reasons for using cannabis, including relaxation and sleep, enhanced stamina, and also to enhance creativity and problem-solving abilities."

The researchers noted that "unclear or inaccurate labeling of cannabis products" can have negative consequences for medicinal consumers. They reported that a prior study revealed that only 40 percent of the CBD products analyzed were labeled accurately, with most underlabeled or overlabeled or containing ingredients not listed, such as psychoactive delta-9 THC.


Public Perceptions of Cannabis Study Conclusions

The study concluded that the cannabis industry features an "extensive web-based presence" and that social media dialog produces "rich but potentially biased information that is often not well-supported by scientific evidence."


The scientists reported that a goal of the scientific and medical establishments should be to "learn from medicinal cannabis users and provide factual, timely, and reliable evidence-based health information to consumers."


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