California Company Developing New System To Detect Cannabis Impairment

With the spread of medicinal and adult-use cannabis legalization across the United States over the past several years, the topic of driving while high has been an issue that states have been looking to address with regards to public safety.

While determining alcohol-induced impairment is a fairly straightforward process by using a breathalyzer to detect an individual’s blood-alcohol content (BAC), measuring how high someone isn’t quite so simple.

Analysis of breath, blood, and urine samples can provide an accurate picture of a person’s level of impairment, but detectable levels of THC in a person’s system are not necessarily good indicators of how high they are as cannabinoids can remain in the body for weeks after using cannabis.

Advanced Brain Monitoring, Inc. (ABM), a Carlsbad-based neuro-diagnostic technology company that specializes in the acquisition and analysis of waking and sleeping brain activity (EEG), is currently working on a solution to the issue by analyzing brain activity rather than a person’s breath, behavior, or bodily fluids.

ABM announced last week that they had been awarded $1.5 million by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) to develop and validate the Cannabis Impairment Detection Application (CIDA).

CIDA is a fieldable system that utilizes wireless electroencephalographic (EEG), electrocardiographic (ECG), and neuropsychological tests to generate a cannabis-related impairment index.

“The need for quantifying cannabis impairment is increasingly urgent as legalization has outpaced the scientific understanding of the drug’s effects of behavior, health, and safety,” said ABM CEO Chris Berka. “ABM is leveraging prior success in characterizing EEG biomarkers for cannabis impairment.”

To further validate the approach, the project will utilize controlled-dose and real-world cannabis studies of people using cannabis products that they have purchased.

The project will also acquire simulator driving performance data through the use of the University of Iowa’s National Advanced Driving Simulator (NADS).

To evaluate the sensitivity and specificity of CIDA, the project team will conduct controlled-dose response studies with an alcohol comparison.

Director of Drug Impaired Driving at NADS, Dr. Timothy Brown says that the research will extend the controlled studies that are conducted at the University of Iowa to test how the impairment detection app will work in real-world situations, allowing them to validate against observed changes in driving performance.