Background: Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a risk factor for problematic cannabis use. However, clinical and anecdotal evidence suggest an increasingly popular perception that cannabis is therapeutic for ADHD, including via online resources. Given that the Internet is increasingly utilized as a source of healthcare information and may influence perceptions, we conducted a qualitative analysis of online forum discussions, also referred to as threads, on the effects of cannabis on ADHD to systematically characterize the content patients and caregivers may encounter about ADHD and cannabis.
Methods: A total of 268 separate forum threads were identified. Twenty percent (20%) were randomly selected, which yielded 55 separate forum threads (mean number of individual posts per forum thread = 17.53) scored by three raters (Cohen's kappa = 0.74). A final sample of 401 posts in these forum threads received at least one endorsement on predetermined topics following qualitative coding procedures.
Results: Twenty-five (25%) percent of individual posts indicated that cannabis is therapeutic for ADHD, as opposed to 8% that it is harmful, 5% that it is both therapeutic and harmful, and 2% that it has no effect on ADHD. This pattern was generally consistent when the year of each post was considered. The greater endorsement of therapeutic versus harmful effects of cannabis did not generalize to mood, other (non-ADHD) psychiatric conditions, or overall domains of daily life. Additional themes emerged (e.g., cannabis being considered sanctioned by healthcare providers).
Conclusions: Despite that there are no clinical recommendations or systematic research supporting the beneficial effects of cannabis use for ADHD, online discussions indicate that cannabis is considered therapeutic for ADHD-this is the first study to identify such a trend. This type of online information could shape ADHD patient and caregiver perceptions, and influence cannabis use and clinical care.