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By Steven Reinberg
HealthDay Reporter

THURSDAY, January 2, 2020 (HealthDay News) – A large portion of the drug you read online about the benefits of marijuana is just great, but it can influence attitudes and actions, researchers say.

Looking at tens of thousands of posts related to marijuana on Twitter, researchers saw many false health claims that fear they can drown solid science.

"These misleading messages are widespread online," said researcher Jon-Patrick Allem, an assistant professor of preventive medicine at the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California. "We want the public to be aware of the difference between health information demonstrated and scientifically supported and the claims that are simply invented."

Online publications claim that cannabis can help with many health problems, including cancer, plantar fasciitis and Crohn's disease, among others.

Cannabis is approved for medical use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. UU. For nausea and vomiting induced by chemotherapy and appetite stimulation in conditions such as HIV / AIDS that cause weight loss. It is also approved for two types of pediatric epilepsy.

Allem's concern is that fake online publications will influence real-life attitudes and behaviors.

For the study, his team collected cannabis-related tweets between May and December 2018. The majority made false claims about the benefits of marijuana. The researchers used a tool called a Botometer to measure whether the publications came from users or from automated software called bots.

"What we found was that the proportion of bot publications that talked about health claims was greater than the proportion between non-bot accounts," said study co-author Patricia Escobedo, a PhD student at the USC, in a University press release.

In addition, the researchers found no references to scientifically proven uses for marijuana, he said.

Allem said the next step will be "to examine the levels of exposure and self-reported beliefs in these statements and the perceived risks and benefits of cannabis use, intentions of use and actual use."

The findings were published in the December issue of American public health magazine.

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Sources

SOURCE: University of Southern California, Los Angeles, press release, December 2019



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