Many people think that cannabidiol (CBD), a non-psychoactive compound in cannabis, can reduce symptoms from various conditions, from chronic pain to anxiety and cancer. Although some early studies have provided promising results so far, there is still insufficient evidence to prove its efficacy against the vast majority of these conditions. This lack of scientific backing, however, hasn't stopped its widespread adoption.
In a new study, researchers assessed claimed treatment applications for CBD in public testimonials shared on the Reddit form r/CBD. In total, they analyzed 376 posts between January 1st, 2014, and August 31st, 2019. To find them, they drew a random sample from 3000 posts and filtered them to only include posts which identified the reasons why users take the cannabinoid.
In the end, the researchers found that 90% of testimonials claimed that they used CBD to treat diagnosable conditions. Psychiatric conditions such as autism and depression were the most commonly cited (mentioned in 64% of testimonials), followed by orthopedic issues, sleep disorders, and neurological conditions. Testimonials also claimed the compound was able to treat addiction, gastroenterological conditions, cardiological, dermatological, ophthalmological, oral health, and sexual health conditions too.
While their sample is small and may not reflect the views of the wider population, the researchers say that their findings suggest a need to regulate factors linked to CBD being used to treat diagnosable conditions. In particular, they mentioned engaging with healthcare professionals on the usage of CBD and the implementation of public health campaigns. In doing so, they hope to inform patients about the lack of clear evidence showing these treatments work and the necessity to consult medical professionals for evidence-based alternatives.
"CBD is this generation's snake oil," says Eric Leas, lead author of the paper, "as millions believing to have discovered a new medical breakthrough are actually taking a product without evidence of a benefit."