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Tech & Tools

App to Help Decrease Marijuana Use

For young adults, marijuana use is popular enough that annual use rates are on par with or even higher than annual rates for smoking cigarettes. And contrary to popular belief, heavy marijuana use is associated with dependence.

While there are few effective interventions to help marijuana users reduce their intake, research suggests that exercise or physical activity could help decrease young adult substance use. However, physical activity has yet to be tested specifically on marijuana consumption.

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 also will 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 primary investigator on the grant, R. Lorraine Collins, PhD, the associate dean for research and a professor in the University at Buffalo department of community health and health behavior, says that since young adults are comfortable with technology and interact with their smartphones multiple times per day, an app made sense. “This newest NIDA grant to develop the smartphone 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,” she says.

In terms of the next step in this research, Collins says follow-up will depend on the outcome of the intervention’s initial test. “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,” she says.

— Source: University at Buffalo