You’ve heard it so often that you may be desensitized to the cliché: drugs are bad. Different drugs inflict varying amounts of harm on the user, but combining drug use with driving recklessly inflicts undue danger on the countless men, women, and children who share the road with the user.
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In an age when marijuana is undergoing an attempted mainstream-ization, opioid abuse rates have resulted in the declaration of a state of emergency, and new drugs seemingly emerge monthly, it is easy to forget that many of these users also drive vehicles regularly. The effects of many of these drugs on driving are significant, and in many cases fatal.
A healthy life is the only way to ensure that healthy driving habits are possible, and the extent to which drug use negatively affects all drivers on the world’s roads cannot be ignored.
Many who use cocaine will point to certain effects which, in theory, arguably enhance the traits which are conducive to good driving: increased reaction time, improved attention spans, higher alertness, and less fatigue. However, driving impairment is increased in habitual users of cocaine, and addiction is likely once the drug is used regularly.
The Emergency Medical Services Authority reports that high doses of cocaine impair judgement, negatively affect coordination and vision, interfere with concentration, and increase impulsivity. Exacerbating these effects is the common link between cocaine and alcohol use, with the drug artificially masking the effects of fatigue and alcohol-related impairment, posing even greater risk to everyone on the road. The deceptive effect of cocaine – the illusion that one is immune to fatigue and impairment – is perhaps its most dangerous aspect.
Marijuana is considered by most to be the least impairing of commonly used drugs, but its effects on the operator of a motor vehicle must not be glossed over. The CDC reports that the number of drivers with marijuana in their system is rising, while the drug may slow reaction time and ability to make decisions.
In addition, the drugs effects – which include memory loss, distorted perception, and difficulty problem solving – are all detrimental to safe driving. Further, marijuana can exacerbate the effects of alcohol more so than when either substance is used by itself.
Opioids, the recreational use of which has spiraled out of control, depress the central nervous system, and increasing dosages mean that those who use them are a high-risk to be involved in vehicular crashes. Even those prescribed with opioids for pain management are not immune to the impairment that most often comes with opioid use.
Medscape found that those who take the equivalent of 20 mg of morphine – a powerful opiate – or more per day are 42% more likely to be involved in “road trauma” than those who take lower doses of opioids. The powerful effects of most opioids – and the abusive nature in which they are often used – should make it unsurprising that the number of drivers who have died while operating a vehicle under the influence of opioids has spiked.
These drivers are most often involved in accidents that endanger other, non-opioid using drivers and passengers, perhaps the most alarming aspect of drug use and motor vehicle operation.
Driving is an activity which a great percentage of the world’s population must engage in daily. We cannot always get a good night’s sleep or pay perfect attention to the road, but we can choose to regulate the substances which we put in our body before driving. When it comes to drug use prior to driving, the effects can only be negative, putting you and other users of the road at risk of injury and death. With the negative effects of most drugs, including the three detailed here, well-documented, the decision to get high before driving is a selfish and dangerous one.