Joe Bast | June 26, 2023

One of the lessons from the Covid plandemic is that we cannot trust Big Pharma to tell us the truth about our health or their products. Many people had already figured that out, but many more are now joining the alternative or “wellness” health care movement. But can we trust the conveyers of that brand of health care any more than Big Pharma?

One of my brothers recently shared with me an e-newsletter from Al Sears, MD, touting the health benefits of taking cannabidiol (CBD), but only as an oral spray, not oil, and only on a full stomach. I told him, “Go for it, but I won’t.” Here is why.

We are awash in unreliable and often flat-out fraudulent claims about miracle cures, life-extending drugs or therapies, and diets that promise to end pain or remove unwanted pounds. These claims are often accompanied by quotations or citations from scientific journals, yet often these claims are contradictory or at least mutually exclusive. How can that be?

The root of the problem is that tens of thousands of “experts” compete for a limited number of tenured positions in universities by publishing as many articles as they can. They submit their articles to once-respectable academic journals that are now known to compromise their standards and forgo rigorous peer review in order to generate “hits” online and sell reprints to drug companies.

If experts can’t get into a formerly distinguished journal, they will be sure to appear in so-called “predatory journals” that charges authors to appear in them. These journals put articles through superficial or even fake peer review, have titles similar to those of real journals, and exist almost entirely online.

The result: Approximately six million papers were published in approximately 30,000 academic journals in 2016 alone. Many of these papers were just exercises in “p-hacking,” defined as using large databases to test hundreds and even thousands of hypotheses to find statistically significant associations. The authors then make up plausible (or even implausible) physical or biological mechanisms that could account for those associations.

What happens next determines which of these six million papers we hear about.

Environmental groups (money-making machines for mostly left-wing political causes), journalists and bloggers (most of them ideologically biased, poorly trained, and paid by liberal foundations to slant the news) and alternative health advocates like Dr. Sears (many of whom promote and sell scores of supposedly life-saving or -extending products, not all of which could possibly work) surf the internet looking for click bait or money-making opportunities.

We are downstream of these second-hand dealers in ideas. They never report on the thousands of studies they come across that do not confirm or that even contradict the ones they choose to highlight. In fact, they don’t even look for them. They may use search terms to specifically exclude such papers in order to make their jobs easier.

But it is even worse than that!

Most popular science writers and newsletter editors look no farther than the abstracts of the scientific articles they choose to report. They can’t understand much of the actual articles. Abstracts, according to research by In-Uck Park and his colleagues, are often written to exaggerate the significance of findings, leave out confounding factors, and incorporate keywords that improve the number of hits by search engines but have nothing to do with the content of the article.

Oh, and did I mention that these second-hand dealers in ideas never, ever bear any negative consequences if the claims they make or the advice they give is proven wrong? Read the disclaimers at the end of the newsletters and take them serious. Does it really make sense to ingest cocktails of strange chemicals from people who deny liability if they hurt or even kill us?

So … what are the odds that CBD can actually do any of the things described in Dr. Sears’ newsletter? I’d say they are vanishingly low.

And that is why I don’t use CBD.

Why I Don’t Use CBD