Your smartphone is a mobile phone with added functionality, so it has more applications and can access the internet. Recent research has shown that smartphones can be used to tell when you’re stoned. True, blood, urine and saliva samples can do this, but this takes time and can’t tell how much a person is influenced.

The Institute for Health, Health Care Policy and Aging Research is partof Rutgers University, pictured. Photo: slgckgc

The Institute for Health, Health Care Policy and Aging Research is partof Rutgers University, pictured. Photo: slgckgc

Why use smartphones?

A study by Rutgers Institute for Health, Health Care Policy and Aging Research that appeared on the website of the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence in September 2021 was led by Assistant Professor Sang Won Bae of Stevens Institute of Technology, which, like Rutgers, is in Noo Joizee. In the past she helped develop an app to detect binge drinking. She advocates smartphone use because they’re so common and unobtrusive: “They are not a distraction [and] you don’t have to wear them”.

When you’re stoned, your psycho-motor functioning is impaired. By way of example, your reaction time is slower. Using your smartphone could provide just-in-time intervention if you use cannabis.

What the study involved

The study took place in Pittsburgh in the United States over the space of one month. 57 young adults – ie people aged 18 to 25 – who used cannabis at least two times a week were studied. They downloaded a smartphone app. Three times a day, they reported whether they were high or sober, when they had last used cannabis and how much they had taken.

Over 100 features were employed to ascertain whether these folk were high, such as GPS, light sensors, movement trackers and noise detection. Researchers also considered the day of the week and time of day. Bae and co were able to detect cannabis intoxication with 90% accuracy.

One co-author, Tammy Chung, professor of psychiatry and director of the Center for Population Behavioral Health at Rutgers, summed up the benefit of using your smartphone for this purpose: it could prompt “deliver[y of] a brief intervention when and where it might have the most impact to reduce cannabis-related harm.”

Researchers also included people from Stanford University, Carnegie Mellon University, the University of Washington in Seattle and the University of Tokyo in Japan.

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