BUFFALO, N.Y. – For young adults, marijuana use is so
popular that annual use rates are on par with, or higher than,
annual rates for smoking cigarettes. And contrary to popular
belief, heavy use of marijuana is associated with
While there are few effective interventions to help marijuana
users reduce intake, research suggests that exercise or physical
activity could help reduce young adult substance use. However,
physical activity has yet to be tested specifically on marijuana
The University at Buffalo has been awarded a National Institute
of Drug Abuse (NIDA) grant for $715,500 to develop and study a
smartphone app that promotes exercise as a positive alternative to
marijuana use. As part of the study, researchers will also test the
feasibility and review the effects of a four-week intervention for
the individuals being studied that includes personalized feedback
about marijuana use and participation in four in-person counseling
sessions focused on decreasing marijuana intake.
The grant will run from July 1, 2013, to June 30, 2015.
The primary investigator on the grant, R. Lorraine Collins, PhD,
associate dean for research and professor in the UB Department of
Community Health and Health Behavior, says that since young adults
are very comfortable with technology and interact with their smart
phones multiple times a day, an app to promote exercise made
“The use of an app will help us to provide young adults
with easy access to helpful information, in real-time, as they go
about their day-to-day lives,” says Collins.
“It’s a natural fit.”
The idea of using an app is the result of several other studies
Collins has conducted.
Collins has devoted her career to studying the cognitive and
behavioral approaches to the understanding and treatment of
addictive behaviors, common patterns among addictive behaviors and
the psychosocial issues that accompany substance use and addiction,
such as gender and socio-economic status.
However, her research has mostly focused on alcohol use. Collins
says she has more recently become interested in marijuana
consumption, which is growing in popularity.
“My initial interest in marijuana use was raised by the
results of one of my studies of heavy drinkers, which indicated
that almost half of the sample of over 600 young-adult drinkers
also reported regular use of marijuana,” says Collins.
“I was intrigued by this finding and decided to explore the
relationship between alcohol and marijuana use in young adults who
regularly use both substances.”
In that study, she says, the substance-using participants used
cell phones and interactive voice response (IVR) technology to
provide three weeks of real-time, self-report data on their mood,
alcohol and marijuana use, motives and social context.
Collins is also the primary investigator on another NIDA-funded
grant on the relationship between physical activity and marijuana
use among young adults.
“This newest NIDA grant to develop the smart phone app has
evolved out of our use of cell phones to collect data in real time,
as well as our plan to develop an effective intervention that can
make a difference in the lives of young people who want to cut down
on their marijuana use,” says Collins.
Methods for cutting down on marijuana use may become even more
important since a 2010 National Survey on Drug Use and Health
indicated that among 18- to 25-year-olds, 51.1 percent reported
lifetime use, 29.8 percent reported past year use and 18.5 percent
reported past month use.
In terms of the next step in this research, Collins says that
follow up will depend on the outcome of this initial test of the
“If the intervention is successful, we hope to develop and
run a larger, more complex study, which will allow us to generalize
our findings to the larger population of young-adult marijuana
users,” says Collins.