Study: Reddit Users Self-Medicate With CBD

What do consumers really think of cannabidiol (CBD)? Are they using it to treat medical conditions or wellness? To find out, researchers looked to the popular social media channel Reddit to see what the buzz is all about.

Scientists from the University of California San Diego performed a sweeping analysis of testimonials and the results were an emphatic confirmation of the momentum behind the promise of CBD.

The researchers scoured the r/CBD forum, digging up a staggering 104,917 posts (with 376 analyzed from a sample of 3,000 after filtering), spanning the period from January 2014 to August 2019. To organize all the information, they developed a coding system, which split testimonials into two categories. One revolved around CBD as a treatment of a diagnosable condition, which was made up of 11 subcategories, with the second category focused on wellness, which consisted of two subcategories.

The researchers found that 90% of the Reddit posters believed CBD can treat diagnosable conditions, including psychiatric disorders like depression, which were the most cited (63.9% of the posts), followed by orthopedic conditions (26.4% of the posts). Sleep disorders made up 14.6% of posts, and, finally, neurologic and gastroenterological issues at 6.9% and 3.9%, respectively. [1] Only 29.5%, in contrast, alluded to wellness benefits.

“Because CBD is not an FDA-approved treatment for nearly all the conditions cited by users who post to Reddit, CBD users may unnecessarily experience prolonged illnesses that would otherwise be alleviated with proven effective treatments,” the authors stated. “In addition, CBD use is not devoid of health risks.”

The study authors note some limitations, such as that results may not translate to the larger population, especially since Reddit users tend to be young and male. But the conclusions are telling:

“The findings of this case series suggest that the public may already perceive CBD as an effective therapeutic for many health conditions. We believe this misperception warrants a multipronged response encompassing regulation, clinical practice, and health education.”

While CBD has not undergone the vigorous clinical trial testing that approved treatments have followed, it is not fair to call these results a misperception, as there are many studies indicating that CBD and other cannabinoids can indeed be effectives across numerous medical conditions. This is evidenced by the approval of Epidiolex® (in the US) for epilepsy and Sativex® (outside the US) for symptoms of multiple sclerosis.

Certainly more data are needed and both physicians and consumers require far more education on CBD and cannabinoid medicine; but numbers don’t lie, and, if so many Reddit users find CBD effective, there must be something to it.

Image Credit: Gerd Altmann

Image Source: https://pixabay.com/photos/social-media-icon-human-personal-2537391/

Reference

  1. Leas EC, et al. Self-reported cannabidiol (CBD) use for conditions with proven therapies. JAMA Netw Open. 2020;3(10):e2020977.

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