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Only 29.5% of sampled CBD users claimed any wellness benefit.
Cannabidiol (CBD) use has increased in recent years, as have claims that over-the-counter CBD could be used to treat a variety of health conditions.
A team, led by Eric C. Leas, PhD, MPH, Assistant Adjunct Professor at the University of California San Diego, assessed whether individuals are using CBD for diagnosable conditions that have evidence-based therapies.
In the case-series, the investigators assessed claimed treatment applications reported by CBD users found in public testimonials shared on Reddit featuring 104,917 registered individuals who publicly discussed their experiences using CBD. The research team randomly selected a sample of 3000 posts and filtered them to include posts where self-identified CBD users testify why they take CBD (n = 376).
The investigators sought main outcomes of cannabidiol testimonials divided in 11 subcategories corresponding with the condition’s medical subspecialty and 2 subcategories corresponding with wellness benefits. Posts were also allowed to receive more than 1 label.
Of the 376 posts, 90.0% (95% CI, 86.8-92.8%) of the testimonials claimed that CBD treated the individual’s diagnosable conditions. Psychiatric conditions, including autism and depression, were most frequently cited, mentioned in 63.9% (95% CI, 59.0-69.1%) of testimonials.
Orthopedic conditions (95% CI, 21.8-31.1%) were the next most frequently cited condition at 26.4%. Also scoring high were sleep with 14.6% (95% CI, 11.3-18.5%) and neurological conditions with 3.0% (95% CI, 1.9-6.1%).
The researchers found testimonials claimed CBD treated gastroenterological conditions (3.9%; 95% CI, 1.9-6.1%), as well as addiction, cardiological, dermatological, ophthalmological, oral health, and sexual health conditions at less than 2% each.
On the other hand, only 29.5% of users (95% CI, 24.8-34.2%) claimed any wellness benefit, with most citing mental wellness (29.5%; 95% CI, 24.2-34.4), with 1.4% (95% CI, 0.3-2.8%) claiming a physical wellness benefit as well.
The investigators believe the study shows the public may already perceive CBD as an effective therapeutic option. The researchers said the misperception shows a multipronged response involving regulation, clinical practice, and health education is crucial moving forward.
“The findings of this case series suggest a need for regulation of factors associated with CBD being used to treat diagnosable conditions, engagement of health care professionals with patients on their potential CBD use, and implementation of public health campaigns that encourage the public to seek treatment advice from health care professionals regarding evidence-based therapies,” the authors wrote.
The use of CBD has skyrocketed since 2014 across the US. The increase happened concurrently with marketing claims that it could help treat a number of conditions, such as acne, anxiety, and menstrual problems. Currently the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has only approved a CBD-derived therapy called Epidiolex to treat Lennox-Gastaut syndrome and Dravet syndrome.
The FDA has also expressed concern about unsubstantiated therapeutic claims regarding CBD marketing claims.
However, the investigators claimed the regulatory response of the FDA has been too slow, with the only action being a few warning letters.
The study, “Self-reported Cannabidiol (CBD) Use for Conditions With Proven Therapies,” was published online in JAMA Network Open.