Adverse reactions associated with cannabis consumption as evident from search engine queries

Elad Yom-Tov, Shaul Lev-Ran

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Background: Cannabis is one of the most widely used psychoactive substances worldwide, but adverse drug reactions (ADRs) associated with its use are difficult to study because of its prohibited status in many countries. Objective: Internet search engine queries have been used to investigate ADRs in pharmaceutical drugs. In this proof-of-concept study, we tested whether these queries can be used to detect the adverse reactions of cannabis use. Methods: We analyzed anonymized queries from US-based users of Bing, a widely used search engine, made over a period of 6 months and compared the results with the prevalence of cannabis use as reported in the US National Survey on Drug Use in the Household (NSDUH) and with ADRs reported in the Food and Drug Administration's Adverse Drug Reporting System. Predicted prevalence of cannabis use was estimated from the fraction of people making queries about cannabis, marijuana, and 121 additional synonyms. Predicted ADRs were estimated from queries containing layperson descriptions to 195 ICD-10 symptoms list. Results: Our results indicated that the predicted prevalence of cannabis use at the US census regional level reaches an R2 of.71 NSDUH data. Queries for ADRs made by people who also searched for cannabis reveal many of the known adverse effects of cannabis (eg, cough and psychotic symptoms), as well as plausible unknown reactions (eg, pyrexia). Conclusions: These results indicate that search engine queries can serve as an important tool for the study of adverse reactions of illicit drugs, which are difficult to study in other settings.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere77
JournalJMIR Public Health and Surveillance
Volume3
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - Oct 2017

Keywords

  • Cannabis
  • Pharmacovigilance
  • Search engines

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