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Stoned Behind the Wheel

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University of Iowa is a smoke-free campus, so NIDA and NADS couldn't use joints like this one, and instead had to use vaporizers.

Stoned drivers have been getting behind the wheel in Iowa City. But they have good reason.

They’re part of research conducted by the National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA) to discover the effects of cannabis on driving.

“We created with the engineers from NADS a wonderful course or drive that involves many of the aspects we know cannabis can impair: executive function, making decisions, divided attention, critical tracking and many other areas that we can test very effectively in this, one of the world’s most advanced simulators,” said Dr. Marilyn Huestis, of NIDA.

NADS is the University of Iowa’s National Advanced Driving Simulator. She teamed up with the researchers there to study not only studied cannabis on its own, but also how cannabis interferes with driving when combined with alcohol. Testing marijuana’s effects was a first for the simulator, which is located in Iowa City.

“The program has been used to great success to study issues like alcohol and the impairing effect of some pharmaceutical medications, but it had never been tested with an illicit drug before,” Huestis said.  

Host Ben Kieffer talks with Dr. Huestis on this News Buzz edition of River to River.

Ben Kieffer is the host of IPR's River to River