09 Dec Driving Under the Influence of Marijuana
A recent study sought to examine the effects of marijuana use on driving tasks (Anderson, Rizzo, Block Pearlson & O’Leary, 2010). The research involved 50 men and 35 women who were all between the ages of 18 and 31. Each participant had some experience using marijuana but used it less than ten times each month.
Before being administered marijuana, the participants were introduced to a math exercise that would be used to distract them while driving. Then the researchers gave each participant a marijuana cigarette, with part of the group receiving a placebo. The participants were encouraged to finish the cigarette but were free to stop at any time that discomfort was experienced.
Following the cigarette, participants were given a driving assessment using a driving simulator. The subjects drove for about 15 miles, with the first minute serving as an uneventful introduction.
Following the first minute, however, several distractions and obstacles were introduced. The drivers were instructed to complete a math task, and were evaluated for how they responded to the appearance of an emergency vehicle. They were also evaluated for their hesitation in response to a yellow light and avoiding a dog.
The drivers were measured for accuracy and speed with each task that was introduced to the driving simulation segment of the study. The results were included for only those participants who consumed the entire marijuana cigarette before performing the driving task.
The drivers were all assessed for heart rate, self-reported “highness” and levels of sleepiness at baseline, after the cigarette was completed and after the driving exercise was complete.
The results showed that across the participants who smoked marijuana there was a significantly elevated heart rate and feeling of euphoria when compared to placebo. Women, however, rated their feelings of “highness” higher than men for both the marijuana cigarette and the placebo.
The analysis showed that the driving simulation tasks were performed at similar levels for both marijuana and the placebo groups, and there was no difference based on genders.
The researchers conclude that several limitations must be taken into account with the results. For instance, the study included only the first 15 miles driven after completing the consumption of a marijuana cigarette.
Over time, driving may be affected differently by the presence of marijuana. In addition, the use of driving simulators is not directly transferable to actual driving.
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