Laws and Regulations

Internet Claims on the Health Benefits of Cannabis

Written by Antonio DeRose

The internet is full of claims regarding the health benefits of cannabis, but are they true? This was the question posed by a group of researchers, who decided to search the internet for health claims about cannabis and compare them to available scientific research to determine their validity. Their study was recently published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine, and they found most claims to be false, meaning they lack having enough scientific evidence to credibly  support the claims. [1]

Coming to this conclusion started by searching Google, and reviewing the top ten web pages for the terms “marijuana benefits”, “weed benefits”, and “marijuana health”. To include articles mentioned on social media, the group used Buzzsumo, searching for the terms, “marijuana benefits OR cannabis benefits OR weed benefits”, and “marijuana health”. Once the top webpages and social media articles were gathered, they were reviewed, and each of the health claims was then categorized, tallied, and evaluated against published systematic reviews and randomized controlled trials available on Medline.

In the end, a total of 467 individual health claims were identified and organized into 81 categories. The most common health benefit claim for cannabis turned out to be pain relief. However, claims related to the general pain category were ultimately classified as “Not true”, along with cancer, anxiety, PTSD, neuroprotection, and Alzheimer’s disease. On the other hand, treatment of chemotherapy-induced nausea and spasticity caused by multiple sclerosis were found to be “True”, and claims for cannabis working in the treatment of seizures and sleep were classified as “Partly true”.

All in all, only 4.9% of all claim categories were classified as “True”, suggesting that we can’t always trust what the internet has to say, but that’s not new information. The search terms used for this study, especially on Google, excluded the word cannabis and included the terms  “marijuana” and “weed”, both of which are slang not used by professionals in the cannabis industry. This search term variable could have easily skewed the search results to be heavily made up of unreliable resources from the start. As always, when it comes to information on the internet, choose your sources wisely.

 

References:

Lau, N., et al. Internet Claims on the Health Benefits of Cannabis Use. Journal of General Internal Medicine. 2021. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11606-020-06421-w

About the author

Antonio DeRose

Leave a Comment