John W. Ayers, PhD, MA Vice Chief of Innovation | Assoc. Professor Div. Infectious Disease & Global Public Health University of California San Diego

Online Searches for CBD Skyrocket Interview with:

John W. Ayers, PhD, MA Vice Chief of Innovation | Assoc. Professor Div. Infectious Disease & Global Public Health University of California San Diego

Dr. Ayers

John W. Ayers, PhD, MA
Vice Chief of Innovation | Assoc. Professor
Div. Infectious Disease & Global Public Health
University of California San Diego What is the background for this study?

Response: Touted as a “cure all,” researchers have documented unfounded claims
that  cannabidiol (CBD) treats acne, anxiety, opioid addiction, pain,
and menstrual problems. You can buy CBD droplets, massage oils,
CBD gummies, or even ice cream.

But public health leaders have been mostly silent on the subject because they lacked data
that demonstrates just how popular CBD is and the future trajectory might be.

To fill this data-gap we analyzed Google search queries that mentioned
“CBD” or “cannabidiol” emerging from the United States from January
2004 through April 2019 and forecasted searches through December 2019.
Rather than relying on self reports, where some might not be willing
to discuss CBD openly, our strategy allowed us to directly observed
millions of instances of people seeking out information or even
shopping for CBD online. What are the main findings?

Response: CBD has become insanely popular! Three years ago, there was
essentially no one searching about CBD online, but now there are an
estimated 6.4 million unique searches each month. Moreover, we find
that demand for CBD is accelerating. Search volumes are expected to
grow 180 percent during 2019 compared to 160 percent during 2018 and
125 percent during 2017. This growth is occurring in all fifty states.

To further appreciate CBD’s exploding popularity we contrasted search
query volumes for CBD against those for other trending health topics,
products, or alternative medicines. When talking to colleagues about
our study we often play a game we call ‘CBD or’ and almost every time
experts are shocked to learn that CBD is more popular or nearly as
popular. Search queries for CBD eclipsed those for acupuncture by 749
percent, apple cider vinegar by 517 percent, meditation by 338
percent, vaccination by 63 percent, exercise by 59 percent, marijuana
by 13 percent, and veganism by 12 percent. But consider this one
example carefully:

For every two internet searches for dieting in the
United States we found there is one for CBD!The most common search term related to CBD oil is “buy CBD oil” – which currently owns the #1 ranking for. What should readers take away from your report?

Response: There are no known benefits for taking CBD over-the-counter and has
become this generation’s snake oil, where millions are engaging with
the product without evidence of any benefit. Even when CBD might not
help the public it might harm them. Just look at the recent outbreak
of vaping related illnesses as an example of what might happen with
CBD given there are no government regulations that oversee the
manufacturing of CBD. But just as important, CBD is eroding
evidenced-based medicine. Some consumers might forgo seeing a
physician or taking medications with known, tested and approved
therapeutic benefits in favor of CBD and thereby become sicker or
succumb to their illness, all so a few CBD companies can make more

We were shocked that CBD is so popular. But imagine if we allow the
CBD industry to continue to prey on the public by claiming CBD cures
everything without any oversight, the CBD market will grow. Government
regulators must step up to the plate and give CBD products the same
level of scrutiny as other proven medications. 


Leas EC, Nobles AL, Caputi TL, Dredze M, Smith DM, Ayers JW. Trends in Internet Searches for Cannabidiol (CBD) in the United States. JAMA Netw Open. Published online October 23, 20192(10):e1913853. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2019.13853


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Last Updated on November 28, 2020 by