Cannabis im­pact on driv­ing

Penticton Herald - - LIVING - KEITH ROACH

DEAR DR. ROACH: In a re­cent col­umn, you men­tioned that “Cannabis ad­versely af­fects driv­ing abil­ity.” Yet, fur­ther on in the ar­ti­cle, you state that, “Early data from ar­eas that le­gal­ized recre­ational mar­i­juana sug­gest re­duced rates of mo­tor ve­hi­cle ac­ci­dents.”

These two state­ments seem to con­tra­dict each other. I be­lieve I’ve read sev­eral ar­ti­cles that state the ve­hic­u­lar ac­ci­dent rate in Colorado has risen since the legalization of mar­i­juana there.

I think it would be ben­e­fi­cial to know which is more in­dica­tive of the true ef­fects of mar­i­juana on a per­son’s driv­ing abil­ity. I re­al­ize that not all the in­for­ma­tion and re­search is com­plete on the use of the drug, es­pe­cially in its mul­ti­ple forms.

Full dis­clo­sure: I am against le­gal­iz­ing the drug but have no prob­lem with its con­trolled use for medic­i­nal pur­poses.

How­ever, you know as well as I do that many health pre­scribers and users abuse the drug for medic­i­nal pur­poses. I’m sim­ply against the use of ANY drug that can im­pair a per­son’s abil­ity to drive!

AN­SWER: I see the ap­par­ent con­tra­dic­tion, and hope I can ex­plain it.

The an­swer is that while, as you say, it’s cer­tainly best not to drive on any sub­stance, it ap­pears that states with le­gal­ized cannabis use have less un­safe al­co­hol use.

The col­li­sion data is more com­plex than I had space to dis­cuss. While col­li­sions have in­creased by about 3 per cent, fa­tal­i­ties have gone down by about 10 per cent. These re­sults are par­tic­u­larly strong in younger age groups. I cer­tainly agree that use of any per­for­mance-af­fect­ing drug be­fore driv­ing is a very bad idea. How­ever, al­co­hol ap­pears to be much more dan­ger­ous, so the net ef­fect is less mor­tal­ity with re­spect to traf­fic ac­ci­dents.

Fi­nally, any drug, pre­scrip­tion, over-the-counter or recre­ational, can be abused. I think the data are clear that cannabis has le­git­i­mate med­i­cal uses, and that recre­ational use of cannabis may re­duce over­all mor­bid­ity and mor­tal­ity, if users are us­ing less al­co­hol, which is re­spon­si­ble for far more deaths than cannabis is.

There is a great deal of un­con­trolled cannabis use, both recre­ation­ally and to treat symp­toms. More con­trol and more data both are good ideas.

Read­ers may email ToYourGoodHealth@med.cor­nell.edu

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