DUID: Top NIDA researchers say concern for driving high is overblown

marijuana-traffic-light

Even top researchers from NIDA agree that resources would be better spent on reducing driving under the influence of alcohol than marijuana. And yet, the leadership of Colorado is doing everything it can to discourage people from having a safer option.

“Our goal is to put out the science and have it used for evidence-based drug policy,” said Marilyn A. Huestis, a senior investigator at the National Institute on Drug Abuse. “But I think it’s a mishmash.”

2007 study found that 12 percent of the drivers randomly stopped on American highways on Friday and Saturday nights had been drinking. (In return for taking part in the study, intoxicated drivers were told they would not be arrested, just taken home.)

Six percent of the drivers tested positive for marijuana — a number that is likely to go up with increased availability.

Still, it is clear that marijuana use causes deficits that affect driving ability, Dr. Huestis said. She noted that several researchers, working independently of one another, have come up with the same estimate: a twofold increase in the risk of an accident if there is any measurable amount of THC in the bloodstream.

The estimate is based on review papers that considered the results of many individual studies. The results were often contradictory — some of the papers showed no increase in risk, or even a decrease — but the twofold estimate is widely accepted.

The estimate is low, however, compared with the dangers of drunken driving. A recent study of federal crash data found that 20-year-old drivers with a blood-alcohol content of 0.08 percent — the legal limit for driving — had an almost 20-fold increase in the risk of a fatal accident compared with sober drivers. For older adults, up to age 34, the increase was ninefold.

The study’s lead author, Eduardo Romano, a senior research scientist at the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation, said that once he adjusted for demographics and the presence of alcohol, marijuana did not statistically increase the risk of a crash.

“Despite our results, I still think that marijuana contributes to crash risk,” he said, “only that its contribution is not as important as it was expected.”

All of these facts lead experts like Dr. Romano … to believe that public resources are better spent combating drunken driving. And Dr. Romano said that lowering the legal blood-alcohol concentration, or B.A.C., to 0.05 or even 0.02 percent would reduce risk far more effectively than any effort to curb stoned driving.

“I’m not saying marijuana is safe,” he said. “But to me it’s clear that lowering the B.A.C. should be our top priority. That policy would save more lives.”

Colorado Governor Hickenlooper proposed to spend $99 million of marijuana tax revenue on programs including substance-abuse treatment, preventing marijuana use by minors, public health and law enforcement. I have to wonder how much he is budgeting for alcohol-abuse treatment, preventing children and teenagers from drinking beer, public health issues related to alcohol, and law enforcement and treatment programs to more effectively deal with the real dangers to public safety posed by alcohol abuse and drunk driving.

And yet our students are

Source: New York Times Driving Under the Influence, of Marijuana



Categories: Alcohol, Colorado, Driving, Policy & Politics, Research, War on Drugs

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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