With four states legalizing recreational marijuana and several others considering the possibility, driving while high on pot is becoming a much bigger concern for motorists.
More Danger Behind the Wheel
Plenty of marijuana users routinely get behind the wheel after smoking. Some of them even believe that they’re better, more conscious drivers when they smoke. Nothing could be further from the truth.
We already know that marijuana slows down motor reaction and impacts critical thinking function, making stoned drivers a major liability on the road. But when these users add alcohol into the equation, the results can be especially dangerous, because mixing the two substances greatly increases levels of THC in the bloodstream.
Alcohol and THC Levels
This new finding is part of a study published in the latest issue of the journal Clinical Chemistry.
Researchers analyzed data from 19 cannabis users who were split into two groups. The first group consumed a small amount of alcohol 10 minutes before inhaling vaporized cannabis, while the other group consumed a placebo before smoking.
The scientists found those who consumed alcohol had much higher levels of THC in their bloodstream than the placebo group. Because the alcohol group also showed greater levels of impairment than the placebo group, it was also concluded that using alcohol and marijuana together greatly increased the risk of a car crash compared to just using marijuana alone.
“The significantly higher blood THC … values with alcohol possibly explain increased performance impairment observed from cannabis-alcohol combinations,” said lead researcher Dr. Marilyn A. Huestis.
The higher risk of a car crash is due to increased levels of physical impairment.
The Increased Dangers of Poly-Substance Abuse
Another research project published last year in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs found that teens that combined the two substances were more likely to display unsafe driving than those who only used one substance.
Teens who smoked pot and drank were 90 percent more likely to get a traffic ticket than teens that didn’t use either substance. They were also 50 percent more likely to be involved in a car crash.
Those who only used alcohol were 40 percent more likely to get a ticket and 24 percent more likely to be in a car crash than their non-substance using peers.
In addition to greater levels of physical impairment, mixing alcohol and pot also negatively impairs judgment.
A study conducted last April by the Alcohol Research Group, a program of the Public Health Institute, noted that those who used pot and alcohol together were twice as likely to get behind the wheel as those who only consumed alcohol. They were also six times more likely to binge drink and three times as likely to have negative consequences surrounding their substance use, including lost employment and legal trouble.
Although abuse of marijuana should never be condoned, those who are planning to smoke should always designate a sober driver – it’s the only way to make sure everyone gets home safely.
Protect yourself and those around you while on the road. When it’s all said and done, driving while high and/or drinking simply is never worth the risks.
How to Get Help for Marijuana or Alcohol Addiction
If you or a loved one is struggling with a substance misuse issue, rest assured that help is available and recovery is possible. Professional drug and alcohol treatment can help anyone suffering with addiction learn to cope with life’s challenges without the use of substances. Contact American Addiction Centers (AAC) for free at for more information on treatment programs and rehab facilities near your location. You can also check your insurance benefits online now.
Levels of Care for Alcohol and Marijuana Addiction
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