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How various substances affect driving

How various substances affect driving

How various substances affect driving

July 13th, 2017 | ASAH Team

While on road, a driver is expected to be in his or her senses, able to perceive distance, time, space, etc. in a correct way to diminish the chances of road accidents. Despite being aware of such requirements, people tend to dive under the influence of substances that increases the risk of accidents. Alcohol is just one of the innumerable substances that can impair one’s ability to operate a motor vehicle. Although the offense of “driving under the influence” (DUI) is commonly associated with drunken driving, this umbrella term also includes other substances within its fold.

Besides slowing down the speed at which the brain operates, alcohol also impairs concentration, hand-eye coordination, judgement-making ability and reaction time, which are the essential ingredients for safe driving. Besides alcohol, driving under the influence of any drug, be it medical marijuana, legally prescribed muscle relaxants, other prescription medications, illegal drugs, etc., can endanger the lives of both the person behind the wheel as well as other commuters and pedestrians. Therefore, drunken driving is considered a serious offense.

Repercussions of illegal drugs on driving

Though different drugs affect driving in different ways, substances that affect the key cognitive and motor skills required while driving are as lethal as alcohol. Though the effects of illegal drugs are more or less similar to alcohol, they inflict some additional impairments:

  • Marijuana not only slows the speed at which the brain operates and impairs concentration, hand-eye coordination, judgement and reaction time, but it also distorts images and alters time and distance perception. Users are affected by drowsiness, paranoia, increased heart rate, euphoria, etc., which pose a high risk to motorists.
  • Stimulants, such as cocaine, can result in reckless driving due to an increase in the sense of overconfidence and a decrease in risk aversion. Although it increases focus and alertness initially, it gradually triggers a range of problems, such as euphoria, dizziness, paranoia, increased heart rate, irritability, confusion and disorientation.
  • Psychedelics, such as lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), magic mushroom or ecstasy, alter the brain’s normal ability to process light and sound that changes the overall mental state of the users. They also tend to witness hallucinations, delusions, hypertension and tremors, which can prove fatal while driving. As in other cases, their sense of depth, time and space is also impaired to such a great extent that chances of accidents increase. Hence, any of these effects are deadly if they occur while driving.
  • Methamphetamine triggers a ranger of psychoactive feelings, such as euphoria, excitation, hallucinations, delusions, poor impulse control, increased heart rate and increased blood pressure, which are a deadly combination while driving.
  • Morphine and heroin incite intense euphoria, drowsiness, relaxation, sedation, disconnectedness, mental clouding, analgesia, depressed heart rate, diminished reflexes, nausea and vomiting. One should by all means avoid driving in such a poor state.

Effects of prescription drugs, OTC on driving

Besides the common illicit drugs, some drugs can be legally purchased from a pharmacy but can be equally dangerous when abused. Consumption of such over-the-counter (OTC) drugs at the time of driving could also be considered a DUI offense. Some common drugs that can impair drivers are:

  • Antidepressants: Some cause alcohol-like effects, such as drowsiness and sedation.
  • Antihistamines: Many of them diminish the reaction time and impair coordination.
  • Decongestants: Most of these OTC decongestants can cause drowsiness, anxiety and dizziness.
  • Sleeping pills: Even the residual effects of these drugs have the potential to can impair drivers.

Make treatment a priority

Besides the above drugs, many other substances increase the chances of witnessing accidents while driving on road. According to a report released in 2014, 27.7 million people aged 16 or older (11.1 percent) drove under the influence of alcohol, and 10.1 million (4.1 percent) drove under the influence of illicit drugs in the past year. About 7 million people aged 16 or older (2.8 percent) drove under the influence of alcohol and illicit drugs.

If you or someone you know needs help in recovering from substance abuse, contact the Arizona Substance Abuse Helpline to get details about the best substance abuse treatment centers in Arizona. You can call us at our 24/7 helpline number 866-857-5777 or chat online with our experts to get more information on the best substance abuse rehab clinic in Arizona near you.

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