Cannabis use: a perspective in relation to the proposed UK drug-driving legislation

Kim Wolff, Atholl Johnston

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

With regard to THC (Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol), the main psychoactive constituent identified in the plant Cannabis sativa L, several facts are indisputable. Cannabis remains the most commonly used drug in the UK among those who reported driving under the influence of illegal drugs in the previous 12 months. There is a significant dose-related decrement in driving performance following cannabis use; raised blood THC concentrations are significantly associated with increased traffic crash and death risk. When cannabis and alcohol are detected together, there is a greater risk to road safety than when either drug is used alone. Patterns of use are important when interpreting blood concentration data: Smoking infrequently a single cannabis cigarette leads to peak plasma THC concentrations (21-267 µg/L) causing acute intoxication. In habitual, daily users, plasma THC concentrations range from 1.0 to 11.0 µg/L and are maintained by sequestration of the drug from the tissues. These facts undoubtedly make setting thresholds for drug-driving legislation difficult but there is clearly a case for cannabis. Determining minimum blood THC concentrations at which a driver becomes sufficiently impaired to be unable to safely drive a vehicle is of particular concern given the increasing medicinal use of the drug. Internationally legislation for driving under the influence of drugs (DUID) is based on either a proof of impairment or a per se approach. For the latter this can be either zero-tolerance or based on concentration limits such as those used for alcohol. The different approaches are considered against current scientific evidence.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)143-154
Number of pages12
JournalDrug Testing & Analysis
Volume6
Issue number1-2
Early online date11 Dec 2013
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2014

Keywords

  • cannabis, drug-driving, road-traffic-collision, per se threshold, blood, THC

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