More People Drive High When the Pot Is Legalized: Research

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By Steven Reinberg HealthDay Reporter

Thursday, January 13, 2022 (HealthDay News)

This is more evidence Marijuana Driving can be more dangerous: researchers report that more people are driving drunk and crashing because pots are legalized in more countries and states doing.

THC, the active ingredient in cannabis, was detected in twice as many Canadian drivers injured in 2018. Cannabis First legalized.The same effect has been seen in the United States, said Principal Investigator Dr. Jeffrey Brubacher, an associate professor in the United States. Emergency medical care At the University of British Columbia in Vancouver.

One prominent United States Dependence Experts agreed.

“This is an emerging and very important area of ​​research,” said Dr. Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute of America. Substance abuseSaid in a statement. “One recent study increased the incidence of car accidents six months after the approval of medical cannabis in Canada, and another study increased the risk of fatal car crashes in US jurisdictions by 15%. And we found that the associated deaths increased by 16%, where cannabis is legal, “she said.

“As more and more states try to legalize MarijuanaIt is important to understand the impact of legalization Dependence Various other health consequences, including driving accidents, to determine strategies for implementing legalization with minimal potential harm. “

Brubacher also said that how much pot is consumed before squeezing the steering wheel is also important.

“Increasing number of drivers using cannabis, especially expensive drivers THC Levels (above 5 nanograms / mL) are of concern, “he said.” But we cannot conclude that all of these collisions were caused by cannabis. “

Previous studies found no evidence that low THC levels (<5 ng / mL) were associated with an increased risk of causing collisions, Brubacher said.

“But there is evidence that the use of acute cannabis causes cognitive and psychomotor disorders, and drivers with THC levels above 5 ng / mL are at increased risk of a crash,” he said.

Reaction time is slow

These deficits lead to delayed reaction times, lack of concentration, and future weaving, Brubacher said.

“We know that drunk drivers have a higher risk of crashes than drivers who use cannabis,” he said. “Some previous researchers have suggested that legalization of cannabis may improve traffic safety if drivers use cannabis instead of cannabis. alcohol.. Unfortunately, we found no evidence that the percentage of injured drivers who tested positive was reduced. alcohol.. “

Volkow said the impact of marijuana on driving ability is significant.

“Many studies have shown that marijuana significantly impairs many of the skills needed for safe driving, such as judgment, motor coordination, and reaction time. Studies conducted in the laboratory have shown that THC in the blood. A direct relationship between concentration and driving problems has also been identified. Capability. “

“But this study needs to be interpreted with caution, as establishing a causal relationship for a particular car accident can be very difficult. alcohol – There are no roadside tests to measure drug levels in the body. This means that the tests used to detect the THC level of the driver are often done hours after the crash. In addition, marijuana can be detected in body fluids for days or weeks after last use, and drivers often combine marijuana with alcohol, so it is not possible to know the role that cannabis alone played in a collision. It Is difficult. “

For this study, Brubacher and his colleagues analyzed levels of THC in blood samples from more than 4,300 injured drivers treated in British Columbia. trauma Center between 2013 and 2020.

Prior to the legalization of the pot, approximately 4% of drivers showed blood levels of THC above the Canadian legal operating limit of 2 ng / mL. Researchers have found that percentage has risen to nearly 9% after legalization.

The percentage of drivers with high THC levels also increased from 1% before legalization to 4% after legalization.

The largest increase was seen in drivers over the age of 50. Researchers say there were no significant changes in drivers who tested positive for alcohol, either alone or in combination with THC.

Driving delay is recommended

Percentage of people driving both Drunk The authors of the study were as high as about 2% before legalization and 3% after.

Blood levels of THC usually peak at about 100 ng / mL within 15 minutes. smoking pot. After that, the level drops rapidly to less than 2 ng / mL within 4 hours. smoking.. According to Brubacher, levels drop to low levels as well, eight hours after taking edible THC.


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Based on these data, he advises people not to drive for the next 4 hours smoking 8 hours after taking the pot and it. Brubacher also warned that the combination of alcohol and pot could be especially deadly behind the steering wheel.

“These numbers are worrisome and I think there is a reason for them, but it’s not the sky,” he said. “THC is less risky than alcohol, so it’s not as serious a problem as if you doubled the number of drivers using alcohol.”

The same increase in marijuana use while driving was seen in the United States, the state in which it was legalized.

“Similar in some US states, such as Washington, without a statistically significant increase in road fatalities,” said Paul Armentano, deputy director of NORML, a group advocating reform of US marijuana law. Increased prevalence data have been reported. “

Testing THC can be difficult, but Armentano warned that people shouldn’t drive while they feel “high.”

“NORML has called for targeted public education campaigns on the impact of acute cannabis consumption on driving performance. Such campaigns need to be part of legalization for adults. I’m thinking, “says Armentano. “We also have a long history of seeking to provide law enforcement agencies with additional more accurate tools and methods to identify and prevent drunk driving. [driving under the influence] Cannabis behavior. “

The report was published on January 13th New England Journal of Medicine..

For more information

For more information on marijuana and driving, National Institute on Drug Abuse..

Source: Jeffrey Brubacher, MD, Associate Professor, Department Emergency medical care, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada; Paul Armentano, NORML, Washington, DC, Deputy Director. New England Journal of Medicine, January 13, 2022

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More People Drive High When the Pot Is Legalized: Research

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