Tweeting to Inform The National Institute of Drug Abuse is a “Follower”

Cannabis is abundantly
available for purchase throughout the United States and is spreading
internationally. This widespread popularity has escalated an urgent need for methodical
data on cannabis’ medicinal benefits. America continues to fall far behind
other countries that have been quick to patent cannabis derivatives. China, for
example, is currently holding more than half of the pharmaceutical patents
associated with cannabis, according to
The
Independent

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The National Institute on Drug Abuse recently funded a cannabis-related study
at Washington University School of Medicine, but its findings were not particularly
important to the medical community. This is because the sponsored investigation
held no intention of helping sick people or saving lives. Instead, the eight
month period of research done by the prestigious university in St. Louis,
Missouri was focused on analyzing the responses and reactions to content  posted by one “Weed Tweets,” @stillblazingtho.

This one Twitter
user, with well over one million followers, typically posts humorous tweets,
especially ever-popular memes (a picture with a witty saying). Occasionally,
@stillblazingtho shares genuine knowledge
on its page, highlighting the benefits of cannabis over legal drugs like
alcohol or cigarettes. One interesting tweet by this user read, “CANNABIS: No
hangovers. No violence. No regrets.”

The expensive
study of this Twitter feed heeded few results, most of which have a
questionable relevance. It was determined that 10 percent of the people who
followed @stillblazingtho were between the ages 17 and 19. This led to a
conclusion published by the researchers that “young people are especially
responsive to social media influences and often establish substance use
patterns during this phase of development. Our findings underscore the need for
surveillance efforts to monitor the pro-marijuana content reaching young people
on Twitter.”

Dr. Patricia
A. Cavazos-Regh is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychiatry at
the School of Medicine, and she was also the lead researcher of this study. Dr.
Cavazos-Regh admitted that her team of researchers could not conclude that
seeing these tweets caused followers to use cannabis. But they did help promote
a cleaner, more accessible image of cannabis, straying farther away from the
“Reefer Madness” perception of the ‘50s and ‘60s. She went on to explain how
unrelated studies in the past, however, have actually shown that there is a correlation
between being exposed to media outlets in general and then using substances as
a result of that exposure.

Many social
media platforms have been swarmed with cannabis advocacy and promotion, on a
difficult level to monitor. Social media, being a unique and relevant outlet
for many different generations is slowly becoming the application for further
research and study, in cannabis industry especially. Though the legitimacy of
these funded studies seems arguable, it’s fascinating to see the evolution of
the studied data with regards to Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr and Facebook. Rather
than fund studies that will ultimately benefit pharmaceutical and alcohol companies
and confuse governmental agencies and citizens alike, institutions and
organizations should be aiming to spend funds on researching the medicinal
avenues of cannabis that are desperate for information and evidence. Tweeting
for a brighter future in free speech and sociological study, social media is
bound to inform our research practices more and more.

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