Driving on ice: impaired driving skills in current methamphetamine users
Previous research indicates a complex link between methamphetamine (METH) and driving performance. Acute dosing with amphetamines has improved driving-related performance in some laboratory studies, while epidemiological studies suggest an association between METH use, impaired driving, and accident culpability.
Current METH users were compared to a control group of nonusers on driving simulator performance. Groups were matched for age, gender, and driving experience. Subjects were assessed for current drug use, drug dependence, and drug levels in saliva/blood as well as personality variables, sleepiness, and driving performance.
METH users, most of whom met the criteria for METH dependence, were significantly more likely to speed and to weave from side to side when driving. They also left less distance between their vehicle and oncoming vehicles when making a right-hand turn. This risky driving was not associated with current blood levels of METH or its principal metabolite, amphetamine, which varied widely within the METH group. Other drugs were detected (principally low levels of THC or MDMA) in some METH users, but at levels that were unlikely to impair driving performance. There were higher levels of impulsivity and antisocial personality disorder in the METH-using cohort.
These findings confirm indications from epidemiological studies of an association between METH use and impaired driving ability and provide a platform for future research to further explore the factors contributing to increased accident risk in this population.
KeywordsMethamphetamine Driving Risk Simulator Antisocial Impulsivity
- Couper FJ, Logan BK (2004) Drugs and human performance facts sheet. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), US Department of Transportation Report Number: DOT HS 809 725Google Scholar
- Fals-Stewart W, O'Farrell TJ, Freitas TT (2000) The timeline followback reports of psychoactive substance use by drug-abusing patients: psychometric properties. J Consult Clin Psychol 68:133–144Google Scholar
- Kloeden CN, McLean AJ, Moore VM, Ponte J (1997) Travelling speed and the risk of crash involvement. Volume 1—findings. CR 172. Federal Office of Road Safety, CanberraGoogle Scholar
- Liguori A (2009) Simulator studies of drug induced driving impairment. In: Verster JC, Pandi-Perumal SR, Ramaekers JG, De Gier JJ (eds) Drugs, driving and traffic safety. Birkhauser, SwitzerlandGoogle Scholar
- Louwerens JW, Gloerich ABM, de Vries G, Brookhuis K, O'Hanlon JF (1987) The relationship between driver's blood alcohol concentration (BAC) and actual driving performance during high speed travel. In: Noordzij PC, Roszbach R (eds) Alcohol, drugs and traffic safety: proceedings of the 10th International Conference on Alcohol, Drugs and Traffic Safety. Excerpta Medica, Amsterdam, pp 183–192Google Scholar
- Ramaekers JG, Berghaus G, van Laar MW, Drummer OH (2009) Dose related risk of motor vehicle crashes after cannabis use: an update. In: Verster JC, Pandi-Perumal SR, Ramaekers JG, de Gier JJ (eds) Drugs, driving and traffic safety. Birkhauser, SwitzerlandGoogle Scholar
- Sekine Y, Ouchi Y, Sugihara G, Takei N, Yoshikawa E, Nakamura K, Iwata Y, Tsuchiya KJ, Suda S, Suzuki K, Kawai M, Takebayashi K, Yamamoto S, Matsuzaki H, Ueki T, Mori N, Gold MS, Cadet JL (2008) Methamphetamine causes microglial activation in the brains of human abusers. J Neurosci 28:5756–5761PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Sheehan DV, Lecrubier Y, Harnett-Sheehan K (1998) The Mini International Neuropsychiatric Interview (MINI): the development and validation of a structured diagnostic psychiatric interview for DSM-IV and ICD-10. J Clin Psychol 59(Suppl 20):22–33Google Scholar
- Suzanne GD, Fatovich DM, McCoubrie DL, Daly FF (2007) Amphetamine-related presentations to an inner-city tertiary emergency department: a prospective evaluation. Med J Aust 186:336–339Google Scholar
- Vermeeren A, Leufkens T, Verster JC (2009) Effects of anxiolytics on driving. In: Verster JC, Pandi-Perumal SR, Ramaekers JG, de Gier JJ (eds) Drugs, driving and traffic safety. Birkhauser, SwitzerlandGoogle Scholar