Woman smoking pot

‘Am I Stoned’ app for cannabis users created by academics

Image credit: Dreamstime

University of Chicago researchers have developed a prototype of an app intended to help marijuana users understand how the drug is affecting them by completing phone-based tasks.

The popular drug has seen a growth in mainstream acceptance in recent years, with nine US states legalising cannabis for recreational use. The drug is known to impair memory, reaction time and attention, although this impairment is difficult to assess in a casual, natural setting.

In order to help users remain wary of the extent of this impairment, the researchers have created a prototype app named ‘Am I Stoned’ [sic]. Through a series of phone-based tasks, the app helps the user understand how the drug is affecting them.

“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,” said Professor Harriet de Wit, a researcher in Chicago’s department of psychiatry and behavioural neuroscience.

“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.”

The researchers began by assessing the usefulness of various tasks in determining impairment by asking study participants in a lab setting to complete computer-based and phone-based tasks. The participants had either taken a placebo or a dose of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC): the principal psychoactive constituent of cannabis. The team used the results to identify the tasks which were best at identifying impairment.

Am I Stoned app screen

Harriet de Wit

Image credit: Harriet de Wit

“The effects of THC on performance may be subtle, so we need highly sensitive tasks to detect impairments,” said Elisa Pabon, a PhD student at the University of Chicago. “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.”

The researchers do not intend for this app to be used as guidance to determine whether a user is able to drive or engage in other potentially dangerous activities, although they hope that this prototype could be developed into a more sensitive app which gives cannabis users a good understanding of their own impaired performance in a casual setting, which can be compared to their unimpaired performance.

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