There’s money involved but the test subjects won’t be making much more than a month’s rent for this job.
The study is examining how much marijuana affects brain function and cognition. There will be particular attention spent on the duration of use and the age of first toke. Along with brain imaging studies the ‘tokin subjects’ will have testing measuring math and verbal skills.
“The hypothesis is that people that use it at an early age have a greater effect, and the longer a person uses it, the greater the effect,” said Robert Block, an associate professor in UI Department of Anesthesia and the lead investigator on the project.
Block wants marijuana users and a control group of those who consume alcohol and tobacco but none of the wacky tobacco. The goal is to have 100 people in the study.
To qualify you must be right-handed and between the ages of 18 and 44 years old. Right now there are more male pot smokers on board and more female control members. He needs to fill up the male control panel and both male and female tokers.
All of the names in this study will be protected from disclosure by a federal certificate.
“Even if the police issue a subpoena, it could be refused,” Block said. “As a researcher, we would normally promise the subject confidentiality, and we do, but without this certificate, we don’t have the right to refuse a subpoena.”
Those chosen for the study will devote about 60 hours. There are two overnight hospital stays involved. The user group will be given a tobacco cigarette sized marijuana joint and have to smoke it as soon as they arrive to the hospital. The test doesn’t begin for another 24 hours after the first hit.
Participates will get $20 for the initial screening session and then another $600 when they finish up. All subjects will also get mileage and travel expenses if they are from out of town.
This research is in the third year of a four-year study funded by the National Institutes of Health. The NIH has given $659,000 this year for the project. The entire project has had about $2 million in funding.
The results of this study could be used in the future to support political positions on marijuana including whether it should be decriminalized or used for medical cases.
“Because it is a politically sensitive topic, if results show bad effects, it might be used by people who oppose drug use. If they are negative, it might be cited by people who support marijuana use for political purposes,” Block said, noting he does not have a personal agenda for the research.
Block has been studying marijuana effects since his college days.
“When I was in college there was a lot of interest in psychedelic drugs, like LSD. But by that time, it had become essentially impossible to do research on it. That had been shut down,” Block said. “Marijuana had some effects that were similar to psychedelics.”