There is a reason why driving under influence is a punishable crime. Consumption of alcohol and illicit drug like marijuana is known to hurt the body’s ability to react. There are also certain prescription and over-the-counter drugs that can also cause drowsiness, dizziness, and often come with a warning label against operating heavy machinery. These drugs and alcohol render one sense weak, leading to impaired judgment, slower response time, and diminished motor coordination. Such compromised state while driving can lead to accidents, severe injuries as well as fatality.
Marijuana and its effects
Marijuana has delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, commonly known as THC, which is a psychoactive chemical and responsible for intoxicating and mind-altering effects. When smoked, the THC and other chemicals in marijuana travel rapidly from the lungs to the bloodstream and has an immediate effect on a person’s brain. While if ingested through food or drinks, the effects are delayed and take about an hour to manifest, which also results in excess consumption. THC can be detected in blood for days, and in some cases, even weeks after use. However, visible effects of THC last for about 1-3 hours when smoked, and longer when ingested.
Not everyone who consumes marijuana has a similar euphoric experience; some are riddled with severe anxiety, panic, hallucinations, and more. According to researchers, there are severe and long-lasting negative effects on attention, intellect, and memory based on the history of drug use. Marijuana can highly compromise the state of awareness in a person, causing them to lose the sense of their environment. Driving with such a diminished and altered state of mind is highly dangerous, not just for the driver but for others as well.
Marijuana use – facts:
In a survey conducted in 2018, more than 11.8 million young adults admitted to having consumed marijuana, making it one of the most common and popular psychotropic drugs used in the United States.
The Monitoring the Future survey related to drug use by middle and high school students in the United States is published annually. According to the survey, in the mid-to-late 1990s, there was a peak in marijuana use in 8th, 10th,, and 12th-grade teenagers. However, there was a gradual decline in the numbers through the mid-2000. There was again a rise reported in 2019 in the daily use of marijuana in young adults. In the same year, 11.8% of 8th graders reported marijuana use in the past year and 6.6% in the past month (current use). Among 10th graders, 28.8% had used marijuana in the past year and 18.4% in the past month. Rates of use among 12th graders were higher still: 35.7% had used marijuana during the year before the survey and 22.3% used it in the past month; 6.4% said they used marijuana daily or near-daily.
The growing popularity and easy availability of vaping devices lead to an increase in the number of teenagers who started vaping THC, the main ingredient in marijuana. It was reported that nearly 4% of 12th graders admitted to vaping THC daily.
Marijuana induced impairment dangerous for driving:
Marijuana can cause significant cognitive impairment making it fairly difficult for an individual to perform, react, and multi-task. It weakens the brain’s ability to respond and relate to any given situation, thereby making it dangerous for an individual under the influence of THC to drive.
Many drivers have claimed that smoking weed before driving actually helps them focus and concentrate better. However, studies have proven this claim to be false. What these drivers are experiencing is just the rush from the drug, lasting only minutes. After the few initial minutes when they feel that their senses have improved, weariness and drowsiness caused due to THC kick in, making it dangerous for them to be behind the steering wheel.
Several studies have revealed that in most fatal vehicle crashes, caused due to drugs, the blood test of drivers has tested positive for marijuana. It has also been found that the drivers with THC in their blood were twice as likely to be responsible for a fatal crash as those who had not used drugs or alcohol. The influence of marijuana on a driver in a vehicle crash is difficult to be determined as the THC can remain in the bloodstream and urine of the user for several days, as users often mix it with alcohol intake as well. Marijuana consumption in itself endangers the driver but taken in combination with alcohol, the same risk increases tenfold.
Marijuana influenced driving is illegal:
As marijuana can be detected in bodily fluids for days, and sometimes even weeks after consumption, a driver doesn’t need to be under the influence at the time of testing. However, because THC leads to a weakened capacity to make judgments and react, and also negatively affects hand-eye coordination, driving under the influence of marijuana is illegal. THC affects a driver’s capability to multitask and remain completely alert, thereby posing a threat to themselves and others on the road. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and several law enforcement agencies, along with prosecutors and substance abuse experts have come together to formulate effective policies, rules, and regulations, to reduce accidents caused due to drug-impaired driving.
Drugs and teenagers:
Teenagers as young as 8th graders have admitted to having smoked weed. The reason behind this is peer pressure, the desire to fit in, and sometimes just to relax. However, THC the main chemical in marijuana, also makes it incredibly addictive. And as teenagers are already in a vulnerable state due to their age, they are potentially at a greater risk of developing an addiction to marijuana.
Not only can THC impair their intellect and delay their cognitive progress, but it also puts them at a higher risk of accidents while driving. For many sixteen years old, getting their learner’s license is a huge step in becoming an adult and getting their freedom. At this point of time in their life, without proper guidance, these young adults can drift and risk their entire future.
According to the Monitor, the Future survey of 2019, most 8th, 10th, and 12th graders admit to having tried vaping, illicit drugs, and alcohol, marijuana, and prescription opioids. Every one in four 10th graders and one in three 12th graders has tried vaping nicotine, marijuana, and just flavors because vaping devices are easily available. Data collected in the survey indicate that there has been a steady use of marijuana amongst 8th, 10th, and 12th graders. About 6.6 percent of 8th, 18.4 percent of 10th, and 22.3 percent of 12th graders reported past month marijuana use this year, and 11.8, 28.8, and 35.7 percent of 8th, 10th, and 12th graders, respectively, reported use in the past year. It was also discovered that marijuana use has considerable increased in 8th and 10th graders by 85.7 and 41.2 percent respectively, as compared to 2018. Since marijuana has been approved for medical use, there has been a decrease in teens thinking that it could be harmful if done on regular basis. In 2019, 52.3 percent of 8th graders, 39.6 percent of 10th graders, and 30.3 percent of 12th graders perceived great harm from regular marijuana smoking.
Responsible action against drugged driving:
The only way to reduce drugged-driving accidents is to be responsible. In case you or your friend has taken an impairing drug, it is best not to drive and either get a cab service or ask someone sober to drive you. And the best safety measure against impaired drivers is to wear your seatbelts.
However, for parents of teenagers who use marijuana, the responsibility to keep them safe becomes more difficult and requires a lot of trusts. If as parents, you do find that your kid has smoked or ingested weed, it is important to make them understand the negative effects of the same and set some ground rules. Communication is the key to keep your teenager safe and responsible.
However, teenagers are not usually very forthcoming. It’s not because of just family dynamics, but also because of their age where they want to seem to be completely in control of their lives even when they do not know how to. This is where parents, unwillingly, need to take certain steps towards ensuring the safety of their loved ones.
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