Dr. Shanna Babalonis is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Behavioral Science and Center on Drug and Alcohol Research and is the Director of the UK Cannabis Center. Her research focuses on controlled human laboratory and clinical trials on the therapeutic and abuse potential of opioids and cannabinoids. She has three active NIH grants to examine cannabis-opioid interactions, cannabis effects in those with opioid use disorder and the effects of cannabis on simulated driving performance. Along with Dr. Walsh, she authored an updated report for the World Health Organization on cannabidiol (CBD) and presented the findings to the Expert Committee on Drug Dependence in Geneva, Switzerland. She is the Scientist Representative on the Council for Governmental Relations Hemp and Cannabis Group and serves on the Program Committee for the International Cannabinoid Research Society. She is also a consulting editor for the scientific journal, Cannabis. Dr. Babalonis provides physician education through Grand Rounds and lectures to physicians in the state on the risks and benefits of medical cannabis and has also given numerous presentations to residents, medical/dental students, and the public on cannabis-related topics. She serves as a near-peer mentor for diverse faculty enrolled in the UK Research Scholars Program and serves on the Behavioral Science Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Council and White Coats for Black Lives Program.
During 2018, Dr. Babalonis received two NIH grants, including a two-year R21 to explore the effects of various marijuana strains on simulated driving performance and a four-year R01 to examine the interaction effects of marijuana and opioids on safety, physiological and abuse-related outcomes. In addition, along with Dr. Sharon Walsh, she submitted an updated report on cannabidiol to the World Health Organization and presented the results to the annual meeting of the Expert Committee on Drug Dependence in Geneva, Switzerland. She was also appointed to serve as a member of the Council on Government Relations Cannabis and Hemp Research Working Group and served as an advisory committee member for a congressional candidate on issues surrounding opioids/medical marijuana. Dr. Babalonis presented research findings on the effects of opioids, alcohol and their combination on simulated driving performance at the College on Problems of Drug Dependence. She also served on the program committee, chaired a session, and presented findings from a study on opioid/cannabinoid interactions and pain outcomes at the meeting of the International Cannabinoid Research Society in Leiden, Netherlands. She is currently working on several other projects, including 1) an inpatient study examining the therapeutic potential of an NK1 antagonist for opioid use disorder, 2) a study that examines the abuse potential of various intravenous opioid compounds, 3) an outpatient study examining the role of amylin on the development of pain syndromes in patients with type II diabetes, and 4) an epidemiological study in rural Kentucky to examine rates of infection/re-infection of hepatitis C in a drug abusing population.