In a sweeping review covering the therapeutic and illicit uses of marijuana, a blue-ribbon panel of scientists concluded Thursday that while certain compounds in the plant help combat chronic pain, recreational pot is not risk-free.

Claims about the medical benefits of marijuana have been increasing but the data, experts said, is strongest for only a few: Medical marijuana helps people with chronic pain, particularly when ingested as a synthetic derivative called a cannabinoid. It also eases muscle spasms caused by multiple sclerosis. Cancer patients who have experienced nausea and vomiting likewise improve when taking a cannabinoid, the committee concluded.

The panel called for more research to better understand additional benefits.

The 395-page report, compiled by panelists who were convened by the National Academies’ division of Medicine, drew nearly 100 conclusions after evaluating more than 10,000 studies published between 1999 and 2016. The Academies include divisions of sciences and engineering, which also impanel experts to address pressing research issues.

Dr. Robert Duarte, director of the pain center for the Northwell Health system’s Great Neck division said medical marijuana isn’t the first drug doctors offer people with chronic pain.

“Typically, they will have to fail two or three standard treatments,” Duarte said, before therapeutic marijuana is recommended. He was not a member of the academy’s committee.

advertisement | advertise on newsday

Panelists, meanwhile, dubbed recreational pot the most popular illicit drug in the United States. But its appeal also has brought consequences, experts said.

Car crashes were more common among users, and those who indulged while pregnant were more likely to have low birth-weight babies, the report found.

Committee members said during a webcast Thursday that limited evidence suggests recreational use is associated with a subtype of testicular cancer, and they noted a higher risk for memory and learning problems among frequent users of the drug. Their research suggested the possibility of an escalated risk for schizophrenia, which also was associated with frequent indulgence.

“This growing acceptance, accessibility, and use of cannabis and its derivatives have raised important public health concerns,” said Marie McCormick, a professor of maternal and child Health at Harvard University’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health, who chaired the committee.

McCormick added that the in-depth review that she and her colleagues conducted involved an examination of the most recent research on marijuana and highlighted issues for further investigations. The more scientists learn about the drug in its medicinal and recreational forms, the better the public will be served, she and her colleagues said during the briefing.

Dale Deutsch, a research neurochemist at Stony Brook University said he would have preferred a deeper discussion in the report on additional medical conditions that might respond to cannabinoids. He said a study is to be conducted at Stony Brook later this year examining medical marijuana for a devastating form of epilepsy in children.

Medical forms of the drug have the psychoactive component removed, Deutsch said.

“In California they’re using it for irritable bowel syndrome and Crohn’s disease. But it’s difficult to do research,” Deutsch said, because the government designates marijuana as a Schedule I drug.

advertisement | advertise on newsday

Substances in this class include narcotics, such as heroin and cocaine, which are illegal because of their high potential for abuse. Marijuana remains in the category despite being legal in some states, and its designation as a medicinal drug. Medical marijuana was approved in non-smokeable forms in New York in 2014.

The panel called for discussions with government, industry and the research community to find ways to study medical and recreational marijuana.

Some experts said such research is important because the type of marijuana now traded on the street is more potent — and dangerous.

“It’s not the same drug that older generations knew,” said Dr. Scott Krakower, who specializes in child and adolescent psychiatry at Northwell Health’s divisions in Glen Oaks, Manhasset and Huntington.

“Most people don’t think it’s harmful, but it’s becoming more potent because of the increasing THC,” Krakower said of tetrahydrocannabinol, the key psychoactive component in marijuana.