West Virginia University researching effects of CBD oil on drivers


MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (WV News) — The widespread use of CBD oil is so new that scientists do not yet understand all of the ways it affects drivers. Toni Marie Rudisill, a researcher with the West Virginia University School of Public Health, is recruiting participants for a new study into whether and how CBD oil impairs driving ability. 

“We don’t really know much about CBD,” Rudisill, a research assistant professor in the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, said in a release. “There’s not a whole lot of research on it. But there were all these anecdotal reports of people using it to help them sleep or help them relax. And as an injury epidemiologist, my first thought was, ‘OK, then: if it’s making you tired, how does that impact your performance or make you more prone to injuries?’”

The study — funded by the West Virginia Clinical and Translational Science Institute — will involve 40 participants. Half will be given 300 mg of pure CBD oil; the other half will receive a placebo. Because the study is “double blind,” neither the participants nor the researchers will know who has received the real or placebo doses.

“We flavor the doses with peppermint oil to mask the difference in taste between the CBD oil and the placebo,” Rudisill said in a release. “That way, people don’t know what they’ve gotten.”

After taking their assigned dose, participants will complete a driving simulation that takes about half an hour. 

“The driving simulator doesn’t look impressive — it looks like a regular old computer game — but it’s amazing what it captures on the back end,” Rudisill said in a release.

The simulator can show how often a participant drifts out of their lane, whether they use turn signals appropriately and whether they stop at stoplights. If a participant is waiting to turn left at an intersection, it can reveal whether they properly judge the speed and distance of oncoming cars. If a pedestrian darts into the road, it can identify whether the participant brakes in time.

“What makes the simulator really great is that it provides a safe environment for people to drive in and where we can still assess performance,” Rudisill said in a release.

She and her colleagues will measure the participants’ driving performance and compare it between the two groups.

Researchers will assess the participants’ mood, drowsiness, sedation, reaction time and cognitive function at two points: before taking the CBD oil or placebo, and after finishing the driving simulation. 

“We’re looking to see if their mood changes. Do they feel more tired? Will we see any cognitive changes that are maybe due to drowsiness?” Rudisill said in a release. “We’re interested to see how those variables relate to the driving measures. We drive every day, but driving is a complex task, right? Every single sense is involved.” 

CBD oil and related products have proliferated the marketplace after the 2018 Farm Bill removed hemp from the definition of marijuana under the Controlled Substances Act. 

“Now it’s everywhere,” Rudisill said. “If you really stop and look when you go to the grocery store, you’ll see so many CBD or hemp-infused products. Food products, animal products — you name it. It’s in everything. But we really don’t know a whole lot about it yet.”

The CBD oil that’s available over the counter is not regulated by the FDA.

“There’s not a whole lot of research out there about whether it really works or doesn’t,” Rudisill said in a release. “Who knows what the dosage is or if it does anything? Who knows what dose you should use? People like me who have an interest in this have to see what it does to us.”


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