SAN DIEGO, Calif.–Results from preliminary trials for an app developed to measure the effects of cannabis use were presented Tuesday at an annual meeting of the American Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics, currently being held in San Diego during the 2018 Experimental Biology meeting.
A team at the University of Chicago developed the app. By using an application platform, the researchers hoped to better “assess impairment in a natural setting.”
Professor in the university’s Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neuroscience and team leader Harriet de Witt said in a statement, “One of our long-term goals is for the app to improve the safety of cannabis use by making individual users more aware of their impairment. By gathering data from users in the field, the app will also contribute to the overall scientific knowledge in terms of how cannabis affects users.”
During the double-blind study, researchers asked 24 healthy non-daily cannabis users to consume a capsule containing either a placebo, or 7.5mg, or 15mg of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), and then tested them with various computer- and iPhone-based tasks. Memory, coordination, and time perception tasks were tested on iPhones, and “processing speed task, reaction time, fine motor coordination, and working memory span” were tested on desktop computers.
Results showed that impairment could be detected in three out of four of the tests administered on computer, but researchers speculated because these tasks took longer to complete than the iPhone tasks, the effects of THC may have been more evident. One of the iPhone tasks was able to detect impairment.
“The effects of THC on performance may be subtle, so we need highly sensitive tasks to detect impairments,” project researcher Eliza Pabon said. “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 said the app is not meant to measure impairment in regards to assessing legal ability to drive or perform other complex tasks. Data from the study will be used to improve on the app, refine its ability to detect impairment, and develop tools for individuals “to assess their level of impairment after using cannabis.”
When eventually available, researchers pointed out that the “Am I Stoned” app would require users to establish a baseline with an initial “sober” run through the tasks, for later comparison with data gathered from the user when they’re high.
The study was funded by the National Institute of Drug Abuse.