We’ve all heard about driving drunk and how terrible and dangerous it is. But what about driving high? Is driving on drugs really as bad as drunk driving?
Many are under the impression that driving while under the influence of certain drugs is somehow less dangerous than driving while drunk. This is completely false.
Driving High vs Driving Drunk; Why You Shouldn’t Drink and Drive
We know the rule, don’t drink and drive. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) , 29 people in the United States die every day from motor vehicle crashes that involve a driver who is under the influence of some amount of alcohol.
Alcohol is known to reduce a person’s brain function. After a person has even just one drink, their inhibitions are lowered, their reflexes are slower, and their decision-making skills are worsened. Alcohol also makes it difficult for your brain to process information. So, when you’re driving down the street, and someone else makes a poor driving decision, you might typically be able to get out of their way and make sure an accident doesn’t happen. If you are under the influence of alcohol (or any substance), it’s much less likely that your brain will be able to process the information in time.
Is Drugged Driving Safer Than Drunk Driving?
In short, no! A drugged driver under the influence of any kind of substance is dangerous and can cause devastating accidents. Per the CDC’s ‘driving under the influence of drugs’ statistics, drugs other than alcohol are involved in about 16% of motor vehicle crashes. 7 million Americans reported driving under the influence of marijuana or other illicit drugs in 2020. There’s only one conclusion - drugged driving is a severe problem.
Why Is It So Dangerous To Drive While Under the Influence of Drugs?
Most, if not all drugs impair a person’s judgment  and ability to operate a vehicle safely.
For example, take Marijuana’s effects on driving. Three impairing effects of this drug on driving are:
- Weakened judgment
- Less focused concentration
- Reduced hand-eye coordination
Additionally, marijuana often makes it difficult for people to react to their surroundings promptly. When you’re driving a car, fast reactions are critical! It is clear that drugs and driving are a cocktail for disaster and that drugged driving is just as bad as drunk driving.
It is also extremely dangerous to drive while using opiates. Many opiate users will ‘nod out’ after they take them. When a person nods out, they are basically losing consciousness briefly. It’s like a person who falls asleep sitting up. Nodding out can happen many, many times after a person has used opiates. This makes driving under the influence of any kind of opiate incredibly dangerous.
Researchers have spent a lot more time studying statistics on drunk driving vs high driving statistics, so the data is still quite limited. It’s safe to say though that you should not take any mind-altering substance before or while driving.
What About Driving While Under The Influence of Stimulants?
We’ve also heard people talk about driving while under the influence of stimulants and how many believe it’s safe. So why are stimulants a problem when driving? Stimulants certainly won’t make you tired and groggy like alcohol or marijuana will, but unfortunately, stimulants, such as cocaine, or methamphetamine have also proven to have deadly consequences . Even taking Adderall and driving is a combination one must avoid.
Stimulants often provide the user with a false sense of security; they feel like their reflexes and decision-making skills are heightened, but this generally isn’t the case. Stimulant use can lead to increased eye movements and attention deficits, which can make it harder to focus on driving. If you are under the influence of a stimulant, it’s difficult to pay full attention to driving safely and watching the other cars on the road.
What kind of drugs can affect your driving ability?
According to the FDA  (U.S. Food and Drug Administration) the following drugs are known to impair driving:
- Illegal substances
- Opioid pain relievers
- Prescription drugs for anxiety (for example, benzodiazepines)
- Antipsychotic drugs
- Anti-seizure drugs (antiepileptic drugs)
- Products containing codeine
- Some antidepressants
- Sleeping pills
- Some cold remedies and allergy products, such as antihistamines (both prescription and OTC)
- Muscle relaxants
- Medicines that treat or prevent symptoms of motion sickness
- Medicines that treat or control symptoms of diarrhea
- Diet pills, “stay awake” drugs, and other medications with stimulants (e.g., caffeine, ephedrine, pseudoephedrine)
Driving High vs Driving Drunk? Neither are Worth It!
It’s never worth it to drive under the influence of anything. Even prescription drugs can impair your ability to drive safely. Even if you’ve only had a couple of drinks or only smoked a little bit of marijuana, your driving will be impaired. If you know that you will be drinking or using drugs, find another way to get to and from your destination. Take an Uber, get a taxi, or make sure you have a designated driver.
Driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol has serious consequences. You can kill people, kill yourself, or end up in jail. While these are worst-case scenarios, they happen to people every single day. Even having one drink or a small amount of drugs will impair your ability to operate a vehicle safely. It’s just not worth it.
If you are struggling with getting your drinking or drug use under control, contact a professional at Avenues Recovery. At Avenues drug and alcohol rehab centers, each client’s care is carefully and individually planned & guided by a team of professionals who deeply care.
To learn more about how long a drug affects your driving ability, including what the half-life of cocaine is, read our online resources.