With DRUID, You Can Test Your THC Impairment

As a kid, Michael Milburn had a monthly subscription to Boy's Life. The magazine included a six- to eight-panel cartoon strip of a Boy Scout doing something heroic, like rescuing people from a burning building.

"I wished as a kid that I could be that heroic, like that Boy Scout," Milburn remembers. "Then I realized, if my app can discourage people from driving if they are impaired, then I've potentially saved their life, the lives of the people in the car with them and on the road next to them, and I realized this project, the DRUID project, is really tapping into some deep emotional thing for me."

Milburn lives in Massachusetts and started doing research for an app that could test THC impairment before cannabis was legal there. He listened to the debate over whether the state should legalize, and one of the main conversations surrounded how there was no real way to know whether someone is too high to drive.

He put his background in psychology with a specialization in research methods to work to help solve that problem. "I've spent my career measuring things," he says. "So I developed this tool that measures the most important skills that are relevant to driving — reaction time, coordination, balance."

DRUID launched in the app store last July. With it, you play games that measure things like reaction time and balance; if the score comes back too high, you know you're too impaired to drive. Three of the four exercises are divided-attention tasks. "There was no good way to assess that," Milburn notes.

Milburn says he's talked with a lot of "stoners" who say they feel fine driving under the influence of marijuana. That's when he hands them the app. "I've heard from some real serious stoners who say it doesn't affect them and that there's no range of impairment — you're either stoned or not stoned," he observes. "My empirical data tells a very different story; you see reaction times slowing down and improving over time in all our categories. Now there's a way for people to actually do that test."

It currently takes five minutes to complete the test, but a two-minute version is about to be approved by the iTunes store. Milburn says he's tried both versions and came up with nearly identical results.

"Five minutes ends up being a long time," he says. "The impairment scores from the two-minute version are almost perfect. They're almost exactly the same when people do the five-minute and the two-minute version right after another."

He's seen users  — the people who say marijuana doesn't affect them — challenge each other with the app, seeing who can get the lowest score. "If in fact your skills do improve, DRUID lets you demonstrate that empirically," he says. "It's really a tool for people who are interested in how stoned they are."
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Kate McKee Simmons interned at the National Catholic Reporter, was a reporter for the New York Post, and spent a brief stint in Israel learning international reporting before writing for Westword.