NIDA Funds App To Tell How High You Are

By Benjie Cooper

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As a result of the spread of cannabis legalization, the concern for developing a reliable system of judging one’s impairment is something that is spawning a number of ideas. Breathalyzers which can detect a person’s blood-alcohol-content can be easily purchased by anyone and are a standard piece of equipment for law enforcement officers. But the same kind of reliable devices do not exist for marijuana at this time.

Am I Stoned measures reaction time

Quantifying how much of an effect cannabis is having on someone is a task that has proved to be monumental because THC doesn’t necessarily affect everyone in the same way. THC levels in a person’s system do not automatically indicate their level of impairment.

50mg might be a lot to ingest for someone who is new to marijuana or doesn’t use it very often, but an experienced cannabis user may feel little to no psychoactive effects from the same amount.

Marijuana breathalyzers are currently in development, but the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) is taking a different approach to the issue by creating an app called “Am I Stoned?”

The app uses different tasks to determine impairment

A group at the University of Chicago developed the app and presented the results from the preliminary trials at an annual meeting of the American Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics held in San Diego on Tuesday.

Researchers gave the study’s 24 participants 7.5mg of THC, 15mg of THC, or a placebo before putting them through a more extended series of tasks on a computer and then a shorter set on a mobile phone. The tests measured reaction time, cognitive speed, motor ability, and memory.

The team found that the computer tasks detected impairment in three out of the four computer tasks while the mobile app only caught it in one.

“The effects of THC on performance may be subtle, so we need highly sensitive tasks to detect impairments,” said doctoral candidate Elisa Pabon in a statement. “It is likely that the computer tasks, which took 15 to 20 minutes to complete, were more sensitive to THC impairment because they provided more opportunity to detect a drug effect.”

Researchers found that determination of the level of impairment came most accurately from the participants themselves who were able to self-assess and demonstrate accurate awareness of their state.

At this time, the team says that the app is not intended to determine whether or not someone is able to drive or perform other tasks. Current study data will be used to help improve the app and its ability to help users assess their level of impairment.