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Understanding cognitive functions related to driving following kava (Piper methysticum) use at traditional consumption volumes

Introduction: Kava (Piper methysticum), a traditional and culturally significant Pacific Island beverage, produces soporific relaxant effects similar to Benzodiazepine (Sarris et al, 2012, Journal of Human Psychopharmacology Clinical and Experimental, 27:262-9). Traditional users consume this drink at volumes 32 times greater than pharmacologically recommended doses (Aporosa et al, 2014, Anthropologica, 56:163-75), with reports suggesting 70% of users frequently drive following kava use (Maneze et al, 2008, Australian & New Zealand Journal Of Public Health, 32:314-6). Prompted by concerns regarding driver impairment post kava use, this seminal research investigated the effects of kava on two cognitive functions related to driving. Research was based on a traditionally influenced kava session. Methods: Kava consumers (n=20 [18 male/2 females], mean age = 35.35) attended a six hour kava session, each drinking an average 3.52 litres (SD = 0.713 litres) of kava. Also present were a non-kava consuming control group (n=20 [18 male/2 females], mean age = 35.1). At baseline all participants completed computerised tests (Vienna Test System: Traffic WAFA Alertness and WAFG Divided Attention) to assess reaction time, perception and attention. Re-testing was conducted hourly over the six hour period. Pre/post analysis was conducted comparing within person and between group change. Statistical modelling is based on ANOVA and independent t-tests. Results: Data analysis indicated no statistically significant (p<0.05) difference between reaction time [F=(13,264), 0.582, p=0.868] and divided attention [F=(13,264), 0.834, p=0.624] both within person and between groups at any measurement point over the six hour testing period. Mean reaction time and divided attention at baseline was 249.95msec (SD=37.57) and 583.58msec (SD=226.62) respectively. The control and active group mean reaction times at the final test were 256.70msec (SD=36.86) and 271.8msec (SD=46.32) respectively. The mean divided attention times for the control and active groups at the final test were 499.75msec (SD=167.62) and 568.32msec (SD=217.71). Conclusions: Kava at traditional consumption volumes was not correlated to response latency or impairment on perception and attention tasks. Further research beyond the assessment of these two cognitive functions is required to better understand if kava has any effect on driver ability. Sponsorship: The study is funded by the New Zealand Health Research Council (16/462) and the test battery was generously donated by Vienna Tests Systems, Germany.
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Type of thesis
Aporosa, A. (2017). Understanding cognitive functions related to driving following kava (Piper methysticum) use at traditional consumption volumes. In Journal of Psychopharmacology (Supplement) 31 (8), (pp. A84). SAGE Publications.
SAGE Publications