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Can I drive whilst on drugs?

Driving whilst impaired due to drug use is just as dangerous as driving under the influence of alcohol. By getting behind the wheel of a vehicle whilst intoxicated, you’re committing a serious crime and putting yourself, your passengers as well as other drivers and pedestrians, at serious risk of harm.

How will drugs affect my driving?

The effects of drugs on driving will differ depending on the type of drug you take and how that drug works on the brain. It is sometimes difficult to determine the impact of certain drugs on driving because people tend to mix various drugs with alcohol. However, it is known that even small amounts of some drugs can have a measurable effect. Most countries around the world have zero-tolerance policies when it comes to driving under the influence. Therefore, even a small amount of illicit drugs detected in the blood or urine could result in criminal charges.

What are the effects of prescription drugs on driving?

In addition to illegal drugs, driving under the influence of prescription medications can also result in prosecution. Mixing any type of substance while driving a vehicle, whether it’s cocaine and valium or clonazepam and cannabis, is just as illegal as driving drunk and can result in criminal charges.

While the warnings on most drug inserts state risk of impairment, many of them fail to specify the potential dangers involved with driving under the influence of these medications. If you take any of the following medications, you should seek advice from your doctor about whether it is safe to drive.

  • Amphetamines
  • Lorazepam
  • Methadone
  • Morphine
  • Oxazepam
  • Temazepam
  • Clonazepam
  • Diazepam
  • Flunitrazepam

All substances, whether they’re legal drugs or illicit ones, can impact your ability to drive safely. Drugs with sedating properties such as opioids (methadone, morphine) can slow down reaction times, whereas cocaine use can lead to speeding and other reckless driving. Certain prescription drugs can also affect your ability to drive by causing drowsiness, affecting coordination, concentration and vision.

The effects of illicit drugs on driving

Cannabis acts as a sedative on the brain and can drastically reduce reaction time and coordination. Driving under the influence of cannabis has been found to affect steering.

MDMA, also known as ecstasy, can cause your heart rate to accelerate causing a rush of adrenaline which can result in over-confidence and recklessness. Other immediate risks include confusion, panic attacks and paranoia. In most serious cases it has been known to cause psychosis.

Cocaine can also cause users to feel overly confident, often resulting in erratic behaviour. After using cocaine, you may experience flu-like symptoms and lack concentration.

Other types of drugs and their effects include:

Dissociative drugs: The most widely-used dissociative drugs include ketamine and PCP. These substances are known to cause hallucinations, muscle paralysis and panic attacks, as well as visual impairment.

Amphetamines and methamphetamines: These include speed and crystal meth. These drugs can make you feel wide awake and excited but can also cause feelings of panic and insomnia, meaning users may not sleep for days before driving.

Hallucinogens: The most well-known hallucinogens are magic mushrooms and LSD. Depending on what type of experience you have, these drugs can cause the time to speed up or slow down. This makes it extremely difficult to judge the speed of your vehicle or others around you. You may also have a completely distorted view of your surroundings, and driving after taking hallucinogens is extremely dangerous.

Opiates: Drugs like heroin and opium are opiates that have the ability to completely sedate you. This will result in a lack of coordination and judgement as well as compromised reaction times.

In addition to the physical and psychological effects of drug use, there are also legal implications you should be aware of. In the UK, driving under the influence can result in a minimum one year driving ban, an unlimited fine, up to 6 months in prison and a criminal record.

Getting help for drug addiction

Abusing any type of substance can lead to catastrophic consequences. If you or someone you know is exhibiting dangerous behaviour such as driving under the influence you should seek help immediately.

Location and travel can often deter people from seeking treatment. Fortunately, CATCH Recovery London can help whether you live in the South East of England, elsewhere in the UK or abroad. Our Telehealth service allows patients to participate in therapy sessions remotely.

Alternatively, we also provide referrals to rehabs in other areas in the UK and Ireland as well as clinics in Sweden and The Netherlands.