Collins Serves on National Academies Committee on Health Effects of Cannabis

Collins (pictured right) has a long history of conducting research, mostly focused on young adults' use of substances, including marijuana.

Published January 27, 2017

Although recent years have seen a rapid rise in the medicinal and recreational use of cannabis, evidence regarding both the short and long-term health effects has not recently been examined.

A new report by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine presents nearly 100 conclusions related to the health effects of cannabis and cannabinoid use, and makes recommendations for an agenda to help expand and improve cannabis research efforts and better inform future public health decisions.

“This is one of the most comprehensive reviews of recent research on this topic,” said Dr. R. Lorraine Collins, professor and associate dean of research at the University at Buffalo School of Public Health and Health Professions, “and I am proud to have served on the committee that conducted this thorough analysis.”

With support from federal, state, philanthropic and nongovernmental organizations, the National Academies convened a 16-member ad hoc expert committee in June 2016 to develop a comprehensive, in-depth review of the most recent evidence on the health effects of using cannabis and cannabis-derived products.

During a six month period, the committee considered more than 10,000 scientific abstracts for their relevance to the report. The committee also gave primacy to recently published systematic reviews and high-quality primary research for 11 groups of health topics or concerns, including therapeutic effects for a variety of diseases and conditions. Research conclusions were further organized based on the quality of the evidence. Among the highlights, the report indicated the following:

  • Initiating cannabis use at a young age is a risk factor for developing problematic cannabis use;
  • Pregnant women who smoke increase the risk that their baby will be born with low birth weight;
  • Long-term cannabis smoking causes chronic breathing problems and;
  • Some people with chronic pain, muscle spasms from multiple sclerosis, or nausea and vomiting from cancer chemotherapy obtain some relief of their symptoms from using cannabis-based products or cannabis.

Dr. Collins also notes that the committee’s research formulated recommendations related to addressing a variety of research gaps and addressing the current barriers to studying the effects of cannabis. “This is a very critical time in the realm of cannabis research and more research on all aspects of the beneficial and harmful effects is needed,” said Dr. Collins.

Dr. Collins has a long history of conducting research, mostly focused on young adults’ use substances, including marijuana. Much of this research has been funded by the National Institutes of Health, particularly the National Institute on Drug Abuse and the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Her most recent grant focused on the development and testing of a smartphone app, as one component of an intervention to help young adults reduce their use of marijuana.