Superlatives in news articles reporting non-FDA approved indications for use of cannabis and cannabis products with a focus on psychiatric disorders: a cross-sectional analysis

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Abstract

The exaggerated language used in news articles to describe the benefits of cannabis for conditions without FDA indications may mislead the public and healthcare providers. Thus, this study's objective was to investigate the use of exaggerated language in news articles focused on cannabis and cannabis-derived products. Using a cross-sectional study design, we searched Google News from March 3, 2020, and September 3, 2019 for 11 prespecified superlative terms along with the search terms “cannabis,” “cannabidiol,” “pot,” “marijuana,” “weed,” and “CBD.” Articles were evaluated for these exaggerative terms describing cannabis and cannabis-derived products along with additional news article characteristics. Screening and data extraction occurred in a masked, duplicate fashion. We identified 612 superlative terms in 374 different news articles focused on cannabis and cannabis-derived products from 262 news outlets. Only 26 (of 374, 7.0%) news articles provided clinical data. In total, superlative terms were used to describe cannabis and cannabis-derived products for the treatment of 91 medical conditions, of which only 2 are FDA approved. The most common psychiatric disorder indicated was anxiety disorder appearing in 88 news articles. Superlatives in news articles covering the treatment of psychiatric illnesses with cannabis and cannabis-derived products are common.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Mental Health
DOIs
StateAccepted/In press - 2021

Keywords

  • cannabidiol
  • cannabis
  • General psychiatry
  • news articles
  • news media
  • psychiatry
  • superlatives

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