Available Soon: Instant COVID-19 "Coronavirus" Tests for U.S. Customers and International Customers.

Industry News: What You Need To Know About Driving Under the Influence Of Drugs

Published on: September 11, 2016

Written by: Confirm BioSciences.

Driving under the influence can lead to many catastrophic events. According to a 2010 survey by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), an estimated ten million Americans drive under the influence of drugs in the previous year. Meanwhile in 2009, a study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) show that more than 18 percent of critically injured drivers tested positive for at least one illegal or prescription drug. NHTSA also released another survey showing that one in five motorists that were killed in car crashes tested positive for driving under the influence of drugs that same year. Drugs can affect drivers in different ways. Depending on what it is, these drugs may impair alertness, judgement, motor skills, and concentration. Though it is not certain that drugs are the sole cause of most road incidents, it is considered a leading factor. sleep driving drugs alcohol

Facts and Figures on Impaired Driving

According to ncadd.org, an estimated 32 percent of car crashes involve an intoxicated driver or pedestrian with 3,952 drivers testing positive for drug influence. One of the leading causes of death in teens includes car crashes, with a quarter of those involving an underage drinking driver. From these figures alone, it is apparent to see that drugs and driving simply do not mix well together. Drugs can alter a person’s cognition and can render them unable to perform even the simplest of skills. It can cause hallucinations and distortions that can confuse the driver into making maneuvers and decisions that are not his or her own. A regular victim of driving under the influence is the youth, mostly those aged 16-19. The lack of driving experience paired with the use of marijuana or any other drug of a similar effect can affect cognitive and motor abilities.

Drug Testing for Impaired Driving

Drug testing for impaired driving is usually measured using one’s blood-alcohol concentration (BAC). When a driver reaches a BAC of 0.08 percent or higher, it is likely that the fellow is driving under the influence. While officials result to using Breathalyzer tests when measuring a driver’s BAC, the same cannot be done if one is driving under the influence or marijuana or some other similar drug. The psychoactive element of marijuana can be detected in a person’s bloodstream or urine four to five weeks after its use. Also, though the drug can be detected internally, there is no way for officials to pinpoint a specific time of actual impairment upon consumption. Cocaine, however, does not remain in the body as long and its effects fade after a day or two. A study created by the NHTSA utilized 3,000 crash cases and 6,000 control drivers in a span of 20 months. Blood, breath-alcohol, and saliva samples were taken from the participants for objective and testing purposes.  Narcotic influence is measured by means of a probability scale called odds ratio: if they increase the crash risk, the odds ratio is more than one. The study found that marijuana was the most commonly used drug while alcohol came in second. The participants that had marijuana in their blood tests were 1.25 times more likely to get into an accident compared to those who were not exposed to marijuana. However, the dosages were adjusted when faced with factors such as gender, age, driving experience, etc. The ratio decreased by 1.05 compared to before. Experimental studies show that marijuana usage has a significant effect on cognition and psychomotor function. The combined use of alcohol and marijuana result in severe effects that lead to impaired ability to drive.

Drugs Involved in Drugged Driving

While the aforementioned studies have already listed alcohol and marijuana as drugs that are mainly involved in impaired driving, there are other substances that could cause just as much trouble. Under illegal drugs, marijuana, cocaine, methamphetamine, and LSD can cause a number of altered cognitive perceptions. When consumed, these drugs can cause euphoria, dizziness, paranoia, image distortion, and hallucinations. Morphine and heroine can cause mental clouding, nausea, vomiting, and diminished reflexes. However, it cannot be automatically assumed that illegal drugs are the only substances that can cause impaired driving. Legal drugs, whether it is purchased over-the-counter or prescribed by your doctor, can be just as dangerous as illegal substances. Drugs like antidepressants and antihistamines can cause slow reaction time and impaired coordination. Ten milligrams of Valium, for instance, could impair a driver much like having a BAC of 0.10 percent. Decongestants can also impair drivers and cause dizziness, drowsiness, and anxiety.

Know Your Laws

Though it may vary from country to country, according to your residence, know what the area’s laws are concerning driving under the influence. Most states have a limit for the percentage of BAC. Also, most states perform the same tests to check if you are driving under the influence of drugs, mainly blood testing, breathalyzers, and urine testing, among others.

Other Causes of Accidents

While some would credit most crashes to driving under the influence of drugs and alcohol, distracted driving can also cause harm and danger. Talking on the phone, texting, and eating are some of the most common distractions when driving. Texting is believed to be the most dangerous distraction at all as it combines three types of distraction: taking your eyes off the road, taking your hands off the wheel, and taking your mind off driving. These three factors make drivers susceptible to any accident that may come their way. Keep in mind that roads and highways are not the safest of places. One must be in the right mindset when on the road as it can harm a plethora of victims. Driving under the influence of drugs can cause problems onto the driver and other people within the vicinity. It can cause a variety of mental stimuli, and the substance could cause hallucinations, increased heart rate, or distorted imagery, among others. Drivers must not take the laws of the road lightly as it can cause damage for all.

Zero Tolerance Laws

In some states, zero tolerance laws have been passed, wherein it is illegal for an underage driver to drive if he or she has any amount of illegal drugs in his or her system. Even if the youth in question’s driving shows no evidence that he or she is impaired, the law still makes it illegal for the youth to operate the car. In seventeen states, the zero tolerance law applies to all drivers, not just minors alone. The law applies to all forms of illegal drugs such as methamphetamine, marijuana, cocaine, inhalants, hallucinogens, heroin, and morphine.

Is There a Marijuana Blood-level Limit?

If drunk driving is tested based on the person’s BAC, then what basis is there for the level of marijuana? When drunk, a BAC of 0.8 or higher will mean that the driver is impaired. However, no monitoring or set limits can be applied to marijuana. Some states have attempted to pass laws wherein there will be a standardized threshold for marijuana. However, the attempts have been unsuccessful. Still, the federal government has shown support for having a standardized cut-off for marijuana. driving under the influence of drugs alcohol

Tips on How to Avoid Driving Under the Influence of Drugs

According to teens.drugabuse.gov, we must always be prepared when faced with a situation of being in the same vehicle as someone who has already had his or her fill of drugs. Keep in mind that the effects of drugs and alcohol could last for hours so even you or your friend who hasn’t taken alcohol or marijuana may be at risk while on the road. Here are some valuable tips to prevent accidents when it comes to driving under the influence:


If you find yourself in a situation wherein you are the only sober person amongst your group, insist that you be the one to drive everyone home. Assuming that you did not get drunk or take drugs, have a healthy state of mind, and have a driver’s license with you, be proactive and take the car keys to drive everyone home safely.

Ride With Someone Else

If you, however, do not know how to drive and everyone else in your group is completely drunk or drugged, find another friend to catch a ride with.

Call Someone to Pick You Up

Have someone not at the party pick you up since that is a surefire way to ensure your safety. Call your parents, a sibling, a relative, a friend, or a neighbor.

Stay Behind

If you are incredibly unsure of your current state of mind, stay at the host’s house. Rest and recuperate for however long it takes to get you sober and right minded again. Make sure to inform someone of where you are to let people know that you are safe.

Plan Ahead

Before you go and have a night you will never forget, assign a designated driver to make sure there is someone in a healthy state of mind who can bring you home. Even go as far as having many designated drivers to make sure no accidents will happen to you or anyone else. Madd.org also agrees that plans should be made ahead of time when dealing with someone drunk or drugged. In terms of being faced with a situation wherein your companion is intoxicated with drugs or alcohol, be reminded that your partner is impaired so any information that gets to him or her may take time to register. Speak slowly when explaining the situation to them. When all else fails, call law enforcement. It is better to have someone arrested and safe than to be killed or harmed.


Keep in mind that impaired driving is not to be taken lightly when faced with circumstances that are beyond your control. Plan ahead to ensure your safety and the safety of others. Whether you plan on getting drunk or high, designate a driver or ensure that someone can be on standby in the event that you are too impaired to drive.

Tags: , , ,