Marijuana Use Increases Risk of Car Accidents

SUMMARY: A new study finds that driving under the influence of marijuana can increase the risk of car crashes by 2.7 percent.
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While there may be benefits from the use of marijuana, there are downsides to both medicinal therapy and illicit pot use. The latest study shows that there is a higher risk of car crashes amongst users, which may impact the current legalization push in states nationwide.

Marijuana acts on your central nervous system. While it can elicit feelings of euphoria, relaxation, and increased sensation, it may also lead to a decreased ability to perform tasks that require a lot of coordination (such as driving a car). Which is exactly what this research proves.

An online study, conducted by Epidemiologic Reviews, shows that smoking marijuana prior to getting behind the wheel increases the risk of car crashes by approximately double, over those who don’t light up.

Lead author Dr. Guohua Li, a professor of epidemiology at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health, said that while alcohol use is down, pot smoking is up. A recent survey by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration found that 8.9 percent of the U.S. population or 22.6 million Americans aged 12 and older used illicit drugs in 2010, up from 8.7 percent in 2009 and 8 percent in 2008.

Using the data from nine prior studies to assess the risk of driving while under the influence of marijuana, Li and his colleagues found that driving in the three- to four-hour time range after smoking marijuana is the most dangerous, and overall makes driving 2.7 times riskier.

Ultimately this could have an effect on both current and pending legislation as well as insurance rates. Chuck Farmer, the director of statistics at the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety, wasn’t ready to jump on that bandwagon.

"We can't really say yet that marijuana increases the risk by two or three times," said Farmer. "Most of their studies pointed to a very strong bad effect of marijuana on driving, but there are other studies out there that actually go the other way."


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