Public perception of medicinal and recreational cannabis and its effect on mental health: a survey of a regional Australian town
The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists 2020. Objective: To investigate beliefs about treatment capabilities of medicinal cannabis (MC), the effect of recreational cannabis (RC) on mental health and online cannabis search trends. Method: Participants (n = 117) completed an online survey, and search engine optimisation software was used to analyse internet search trends. Results: Half the participants perceived RC as harmful to mental health but were uncertain if it impairs treatment for depression or prevents anxiety. Participants believed MC can treat depression and/or anxiety. The Google keyword 'CBD oil' is most popular when seeking cannabis information and provides misinformation. Conclusion: Australians are exposed to misinformation about MC online, explaining why participants believed that MC could treat anxiety and/or depression and why there is a reduction in the belief that RC is harmful to mental health. Health authorities should incorporate search engine optimisation strategies to provide accurate information about cannabis.