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Drugs & Health Blog

FACT: Driving After Using Marijuana Is Dangerous

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Sara Bellum

According to a recent driving study, as many as 1 in 5 teen drivers say they drove under the influence of marijuana. More than one-third of them did not believe that marijuana affected their driving, whereas less than one-fifth of teens who drove after drinking alcohol said their driving wasn’t impaired.

These numbers show that some teen drivers aren’t getting the message that both alcohol and drugs—including marijuana—are dangerous risks behind the wheel. Not only that, but drivers under the influence of these substances endanger other users of the road as well.

Reducing drunk driving has been a focus of public health campaigns in the United States for a long time. After all, SADD, which now stands for Students Against Destructive Decisions, started out as Students Against Drunk Driving. Only recently have people started talking about how driving high or buzzed is just as risky as driving drunk.

Your Brain in the Driver’s Seat

Because driving is such a common activity, it’s easy to forget how you really must stay alert to stay safe. While it may seem like your body goes on automatic when accelerating or changing lanes, really your brain is in high gear.

Drugs and alcohol interfere with the brain’s ability to function properly. THC, the main active ingredient in marijuana, affects areas of the brain that control the body’s movements, balance, coordination, memory, and judgment, so it’s no surprise that marijuana and driving don’t mix.

Speak Up

The driving study mentioned above also found that 90 percent of teen drivers would stop driving under the influence of marijuana if asked by their passengers. If you see someone who’s about to drive after using marijuana, tell them it’s not a good idea.

Note: Drugs and alcohol aren’t the only things that may mess with your driving skills—check out to find out about how eating, using a GPS, texting, or talking to passengers can also lead to an accident.

Update: Researchers now have a “driving simulator” that shows exactly how using marijuana can affect driving ability. Read about what they discovered here.

Comments posted to the Drugs & Health Blog are from the general public and may contain inaccurate information. They do not represent the views of NIDA or any other federal government entity.


Agreed. And this is the main reason it is illegal. Its like alcohol or anything else and no one should be driving when the mind is altered.
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main reason illegal? Yet alcohol kills 300 times more on the road.

Why don't you write about the dangers of driving under the influence of alcohol since it has caused more deaths than marijuana. Specifically Alcohol gives you euphoria and makes you take more risks and drive faster. BTW the facts about marijuana in this site are very twisted, why didn't this site release the recent reports showed by Yahoo about how marijuana doesn't cause long cancer and even prevents it and how it doesn't produced long term cognitive effects by the use
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Or maybe you want to tell how now one has died from using it and how the prohibition has produced thousand of cartels who currently and illegally sends marijuana to the US across the border

@Joel You are right, it is extremely dangerous to drive drunk. This and several other blog posts mention that. Alcohol, marijuana, other illicit drugs, and even certain prescription and over the counter drugs can all impair your reaction time and judgment, which affect driving, of course. Drunk, drugged, and distracted drivers are a danger to themselves, their passengers, and others on the road.

Check out these related posts on drunk driving and distracted driving on Sara Bellum:

- Assert Your Independence: Say No to Alcohol this July 4th

- St. Patrick’s Day: Leprechauns, Shamrocks, and…Binge Drinking?

- Four Tips to Avoid Drinking, Drugs and Driving

- Stop Distracted Driving: Stay Alert to Stay Safe

i think no matter what it is important to know about both alcohol and drugs no matter which one is more dangerous teens still need to know about all the risk related with both and i think all teens in the u.s. sould take at least a 1 week program talking about both alcohol and drugs that they have to do in school and if the child misses days of school to get out of the program the principal makes them take it all over again and what parent wouldnt agree with me,sometimes you have to be harsh to prove that these things are important and coming from a teen such as myself i think every school should do this.
Great point Courtney prevention from education.

This reference is from TIMES magazine and not from government source like the ones on this site. Its says that marijuana is far less addictive than tobacco. Tobacco is hooks about 20% to 30% of smokers, marijuana is much less addictive, coming in at 9% to 10%. In contrast, 23% to 25% of heroin users get addicted, along with 15% of alcohol users and 15% to 20% of those who use cocaine.

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@Joel True, the drugs you mentioned are all extremely addictive. Still, 9%-10% for marijuana users is not an insignificant number. Teens and young adults are especially vulnerable to becoming addicted to any of these substances.

I'm really disappointed that websites such as this have to lie and then ironically says it has the facts when it contradicts it's information with recent and legitimate reports from the internet. Why do we really have to take this prohibition approach instead of telling the truth, and how Netherlands and Switzerland witch have a more different approach both enjoy lower rates of adolescent marijuana use than the U.S. This website is contributing to the failed DRUG WAR witch has cost the country billions of dollars in incarceration and propaganda that have not result in fewer drug use, instead more people are using marijuana, and how is that? One thing is educating our children about the responsibilities of it's use and how they need to be adults if they want to use it, since they are not mature and responsible enough to try it and another thing is lying to them and then making them more curious about it, and if they end up knowing that all of it was a lie it's gonna backfire big time on parents. Shame on this website!!!

@Joel First, we should point out that NIDA does not set policy; we support and conduct research on drugs of abuse. We do our best to provide accurate and unbiased information based on current scientific research. Hopefully, this information will help children and adolescents make responsible decisions regarding drug use. Adults, too.

I strongly agree that taking marijuana + driving is a big no no.. We just met an accident when my friend fell asleep while driving under the influence of the herb..

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- sheena

why were you doing drugs anyways

Yes this dangerous.
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Smoking Marijuana Can Make Driving Dangerous
Yes it is - BECAUSE

The cerebellum is the section of our brain that controls balance and coordination. When THC affects the cerebellum’s function, it makes scoring a goal in soccer or hitting a home run pretty tough. THC also affects the basal ganglia, another part of the brain that’s involved in movement control.

These THC effects can cause disaster on the road. Research shows that drivers on marijuana have slower reaction times, impaired judgment, and problems responding to signals and sounds. Studies conducted in a number of localities have found that approximately 4 to 14 percent of drivers who sustained injury or death in traffic accidents tested positive for THC.
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Purdue Pharma recently announced it is conducting clinical trials on OxyContin in children. Immediately some have criticized, suggesting that the exposure to opioids at an early age will inevitably lead to addiction later in life. The larger issue that was missed is that there are times opioids are necessary for children. Children in intensive care units, emergency rooms, post operatively or in rehab often require strong analgesics. These are children with cancer, with severe burns, with sickle cell anemia or other conditions. It would be cruel and inhumane to leave children untreated who experience extraordinary amounts of pain. Of course opioids should not be the first line of therapy if an alternative is available, but they may be the only way to provide relief. So the question is not whether opioids should be used in children but rather how to use them safely when they are necessary. The only way we can know how to safely use medications in children is if they are studied in children. Science should inform patient safety. [link removed, per guidelines]

I believe the only way driver can drive safely is not to drive any vehicle within at minimum of twenty four hours of ingesting any legal (illegal products is not tolerated and acceptable in a civilized society), beverage or drugs - alcohol, drugs etc. The evidence proves without any doubt that driving with alcohol and drugs within the body while driving or in control of a vehicle is a lethal combination and this analogy is from working within the emergency medics arena.

im going to have to disagree. i dont think driving under ther influence of marijuana is the same as driving drunk. Yeah it might impair your judgement but not as much as alcohol. You hear all these stories about people getting into accidents because they were drunk but i have never heard of someone crashing while under the influence of marijuana.

I will need to disagree and I will give my reasons, as any substance which can adversely affect the necessary concentration to driving of a vehicle on the highway, whether alcohol or drugs - legal or illegal, must be forceably outlawed in legislation. Driving a vehicle safely on the public highway is an absolute priority and being in full control of the vehicle at all times is extremely important and unfortunately any loss of concentration from whatever reasons, potentially turns that vehicle and driver into a multiple killing machine, and I say this as a person formerly employed within the medical ambulance response arena, where every road traffic accident (rta) is one road traffic accident that will have an adverse affect on many people related and unrelated to the driver.

@Jeremy "Thy blasphemy, I curse, not thee." That is the main reason it is illegal?! Hypocrite among us! If Cannabis is illegal because of the danger it poses to the highways, why is alcohol legal? Are you really truly suggesting that alcohol is not only less dangerous than Cannabis, but is exempt from criminalization, despite the many thousands of deaths it causes each year, because its less dangerous? If you truly believe, and I respect your right to believe what you will, that Cannabis is illegal because of its dangers, would you not support similar, if not more intense, criminalization for alcohol abuse? With regard to Cannabis, the time has come for true prohibition, or no prohibition. Half hearted "fence sitting" prohibition will soon meet its end. [Deleted, per guidelines]

No one is suggesting alcohol is less dangerous. Driving under the influence of alcohol is very dangerous. So don't drink and drive. And don't drive after using other drugs either.

Yes, unfortunately any drug including alcohol has an adverse influence on your driving capability, I believe the only acceptable level for driving a vehicle is zero amounts of drugs and alcohol. Driving a vehicle in a public place is difficult enough for a driver when under under the influence of either drugs or alcohol, but when driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol is foolhardy at the least. Many years experience of emergency ambulance service reinforces the issue that driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol is dangerous not only to the driver but also to innocent road users injured and killed by drivers under the influence every day.

That is truly very dangerous it cause accident.

A person can get hooked on various kinds of drugs, foods as well as certain fluids, however the level of addiction during these contexts differ. There are certain addictions, which may be detrimental in the long run and something of them is drug abuse. There are numerous facts about drug abuse that individuals are not aware of and these are essential for the health and general wellness of the body.

marijuana aka weed can take over your body and affect the way you are ..if you are to addicted it can affect in anger SO DONT USE IT !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! you can hurt ur family and friend

@newport, the same amount of people die each year for buzzed driveing as drunk

Very good article. I'm facing some of these issues as well..
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I am a pot head who smokes regularly and i drive almost everyday and i have not been in one accident or came even close to hurting someone so dont try to make it seem like pot is as bad as alcohol because its not an it does not cause anger it calms and makes you feel better i do my homework high as a kite it stimulates me so dont comment unless you know first hand


Hi Hunter,

You are right that marijuana can have different emotional effects for different people--for instance relaxing some people while making others anxious. But it does impair motor coordination for everyone. Also, like alcohol, marijuana can artificially boost a person's confidence in their skills at tasks such as driving--or homework--making them think they're better than they are. No one drives drunk expecting they'll kill someone, but they do.

And though it's hard to compare the risks of driving drunk versus driving after smoking marijuana, statistics show you more than double your odds of causing an accident if you drive while high.

Agree with you. highness can be enjoy if you are doing it in a limit. Even i happened with me, i forgot where i am going and i was not able to properly drive my car.
Of course it is dangerous and it amazes me, but probably shouldn't, that after decades and decades of spending money on drug prevention, research and documentation, public educational programs etc etc, that states are still wanting to jump on the band wagon of making it legal. Understandable when you think of follow the money.
Follow the money that made it illegal. Plus what research and documentation? If we already knew everything, why are saying we need more research to change laws. Lookup why it became illegal, it wasn't the dangers of the plant. If it kills you and makes you unproductive why is Willie Nelson 82, released over 60 albums and kept it over tobacco. Just one example.
Has anyone seen any research about driving speeds while under the influence of marijuana? Do impaired people tend to drive faster or more slowly?