Drugs and DUIs: Is Driving and Using Worse Than Drinking and Driving?

Medically Reviewed

Law enforcement and the average citizen saw their worst nightmare come true with the legalization of marijuana in several states throughout the country. Many advocates stated that because it was legal, we wouldn’t see an increase of individuals driving under the influence of marijuana.

Unfortunately, that claim did not come true. The numbers were released and showed that 60 percent of drivers who use marijuana in legal states drive under the influence.

Drinking and driving have been a highly publicized issue in modern society, and alcohol-related accidents cause 10,000 fatalities every year. There are many awareness campaigns aimed at curbing drinking and driving, but less has been done to stop drugged driving. Sixteen percent of auto accidents are caused by drugs, which cause impaired judgment, lower motor functions, and drowsiness.

Driving on Depressants

Depressants are drugs that suppress our central nervous system (CNS) and cause drowsiness. Alcohol belongs in this category, as well as prescription drugs that cause intoxication similar to alcohol. When these drugs are administered to induce sleep, you may not be inclined to go for a drive, but if it’s used to treat anxiety, you may be preparing for events or social gatherings. 

Unfortunately, this may involve driving, which can be dangerous. Any drug that slows down judgment can cause an accident. Studies have looked at how benzodiazepines affect driving and can lead to car accidents. One 2008 study showed how benzodiazepines affect your likelihood of unsafe driving actions, such as swerving or speeding, that may cause a car accident. The study found that benzos with long half-lives increase your risk of hazardous driving.

Driving on Stimulants

Stimulants are more complicated than depressants when it comes to impaired driving. When used as prescribed, they are designed to increase wakefulness and focus. One study shows that ADHD medication can decrease a person’s risk of getting into an accident if they have an attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). 

On the contrary, however, illicit stimulants like methamphetamine or cocaine can be dangerous. Although they increase wakefulness, they may cause symptoms that hinder driving, such as paranoid delusions, restlessness, or hallucinations.

Since illicit stimulants can cause delusions, hallucinations, and psychosis, driving can be extremely dangerous. It may also cause aggressive or impatient driving that leads to an accident. Another study shows that when individuals abuse stimulants like MDMA, it may induce sleep deprivation and insomnia, which may lead to a dangerous accident.

As we mentioned above, some prescription stimulants are safe while driving, but if you are ever in doubt, you should always be in contact with your prescribing doctor to determine your options. Driving under the influence is dangerous for not just you but everyone that occupies the road. The only way we can make our streets safer is to make mindful decisions and not drive under the influence of any drugs unless your doctor advises otherwise.

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