Quality healthcare is integral to our way of life. Unfortunately, if it’s not an emergency situation and you’re just seeking some quick advice from a medical professional, that can be rather difficult to come by. Hence the birth of the medical industry chatbot.
While medical cannabis chatbots are a relatively new concept, artificial intelligence in the world of healthcare dates back over 50 years to one of the very first chatbots ever produced, ELIZA. This program was created in 1964 at the MIT Artificial Intelligence Laboratory to function as a virtual therapist.
Chatbots are unique because they combine education with entertainment. They have huge databases brimming with information, which is delivered in a fun and interactive way. People are used to messaging, so it makes sense to utilize this communication platform to inform the public.
How Knowledgeable are These Chatbots?
Virtual budtenders are exactly what they sound like. When you go into a dispensary, a knowledgeable budtender should be able to have at least a basic understanding of common conditions that cannabis can treat, and then be able to suggest a few good strains based on your symptoms. With a virtual budtender, the idea is to have a quality consultation via a messenger app, from the comfort of your own home. No formal studies have been done on the legitimacy of these medical cannabis bots, but they’re expected to become increasingly accurate over time.
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The ABBI chatbot was launched by entrepreneur Rick Bakas, after he spent years trying to help his ailing mother find the right strain and consumption method to treat her multiple sclerosis. Rick partnered with the Knox family, owners of CannaMDs, and together they compiled a comprehensive medical cannabis database.
ABBI’s panel of experts includes Janice Knox, Anesthesiologist; Jessica Knox, Preventative Medicine; Rachel Knox, Preventative Medicine; and David Knox, Emergency Room Physician, all of whom you can schedule a video appointment with if you have additional questions.
ABBI harnesses the power of artificial intelligence and couples it with Facebook messenger to deliver prompt information to patients in need. As more questions get asked, ABBI saves these, along with the answers, into the ever-expanding database.
So what does ABBI already know? ABBI’s database includes symptoms, diseases, strains, and information on how to medicate. The diseases already covered are Alzheimer’s, anxiety, cancer, causalgia, chronic pain, fibromyalgia, insomnia, IBS, multiple sclerosis, PTSD and seizures. There are a few options for symptoms as well; anxiety, depression, cancer growth, migraine/headache, pregnancy, pain, and “other.”
When asking ABBI what the best options are for depression and anxiety, the response was, “Depression is a complex mood disorder with multiple causes and varied symptoms, and is often associated with anxiety and stress. THC & CBD exert sedative effects and alleviate stress and anxiety. THC in low doses works as an antidepressant, stimulates serotonin production in the brain, and can give euphoria, but high THC doses can do the opposite, decreasing serotonin and worsening depression. Start with a low THC:CBD ratio and THC dose of <5 mg. Harlequin is a strain really well suited for treating anxiety AND depression. It should be fairly accessible in most places with medical marijuana is available.” Studies do show this information to be accurate, albeit rather vague.
CONCLUSION: The information is correct, although not much more detailed than what you could find in a basic Google search.
PotBot was launched in 2015 as a subsidiary service from Potbiotics, a medical cannabis recommendation firm founded by David Goldstein, and evidently, it has had more time to develop its database of information. It’s available for iOS, Android, and desktop. Similar to ABBI, PotBot is a virtual budtender that offers medical advice based on information provided by the patient. The information available covers an extensive list of ailments that cannabis can help with, plus knowledge on over a thousand different medical cannabis strains.
Conditions and symptoms covered by PotBot include: ADD, ADHD, anxiety, arthritis, bipolar disorder, cachexia, chron’s disease, depression, digestive cramps, dravet syndrome, epilepsy, fatigue, fibromyalgia, glaucoma, headaches, hepatitis C, inflammation, insomnia, IBS, lupus, migraines, mood swings, multiple sclerosis, muscle spasms, nausea, obsessive-compulsive disorder, pain, Parkinson’s, PTSD, seizures, social anxiety disorder, status epilepticus, stress, Tourette syndrome, ulcerative colitis, and wasting syndrome.
PotBot aims to match patients with the best possible strain, THC/CBD concentration, and consumption method for their specific condition. This is the answer provided by PotBot for advice on how to manage multiple sclerosis, “For M.S. you can use a strain like AC/DC, preferably vaporized, for reducing pain and spasticity associated with the disease. It’s a high CBD strain, usually around 8:1, which means you’ll feel little to no psychoactive effects throughout the day. It may also help with sleep, but you can also use a strain called Harlequin taken at night by either tincture, vape or in a microdose edible around 5mg.”
In a case study published by the BioMed Central Journal, cannabis strains with a higher CBD ratio were effective in relieving symptoms of multiple sclerosis in a 52-year-old woman with an advanced form of the disease. Another study shows how smoked cannabis that’s higher in CBD is effective at managing tremors, pain, and bladder dysfunction in sufferers of the disease. However, research teams also looked at using Sativex, an oromucosal cannabis spray, to treat spasticity in MS patients and the results were positive, even though it has a CBD:THC ratio of 1:1.
PotBot also provides a list of compatible strains with percentages of THC, CBD, CBN, CBD, THCB, AND CBG; a cannabinoid ratio that’s best for your condition, and best consumption methods. For some conditions it will even include the onset of effects, peak effect time, and duration of effects with each method. There’s also a personal medical log, where patients can keep track of what strains they’ve tried and how effective they were.
CONCLUSION: Much more informative and user-friendly than ABBI. However, it collects very little background information other than symptoms/conditions. Medical history, cannabis tolerance, any other medications a patient might be taking, and so many other factors can affect the way someone reacts to cannabis therapy.
Overall, it’s a great concept, but it still leaves much to be desired. But this plunge into the world of cannabis industry artificial intelligence is just the beginning. Over time, these programs will only become more sophisticated. Of course in some scenarios, nothing beats real human interaction. But if you’re in a rural area or a city that only has delivery services, an app like this can be a lifesaver.
[Featured image credit: Pixabay]