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08 Jun Study: Marijuana Can Make a DUI Sound Like a Better Idea

A new study by RTI International, published in Health Education Research, has found that using marijuana can make you more likely to drive while under the influence.

For the study, researchers examined surveys of 1,352 marijuana users in Colorado and Washington in 2014. They refined the data from these surveys in order to look more closely at responses from 865 participants who had used marijuana within the past 30 days, and at responses from the 16 percent of participants who had reported being high at the time of survey administration.

Overall, the researchers found that survey participants who were high at the time of taking the survey were much more likely to respond that it was safe to drive while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. More specifically, these respondents said that “in certain situations,” driving while under the influence might be permissible.

Jane Allen, research analyst at RTI International and co-author of the study, commented on these negative effects of alcohol and marijuana use: “When people are sober, most acknowledge they can’t safely drive under the influence of alcohol or marijuana. The problem is, being intoxicated affects our perceptions of risk.” So while you may say prior to using marijuana or alcohol that you would never engage in driving while under the influence, your perception of risk here may very well have changed by the time you must decide whether or not to drive while under the influence. This increases your risk of driving while under the influence, putting you in major danger of being involved in a serious accident.

Jane Allen suggested that public health campaigns would do well to address this as they plan and develop campaigns aimed at eliminating driving while under the influence. Public health organizations might, for example, aim to create messages that would be more memorable and persuasive to individuals while they are under the influence of drugs or alcohol. This would, of course, require additional research on what content and message characteristics might make messages more persuasive. Additionally, Allen strongly suggests that those creating online surveys should document which proportion of their respondents were high or under the influence of alcohol while taking the survey, as this has the potential to skew survey results.

This study comes at a time when nearly half of U.S. states have legalized marijuana for medical or recreational purposes, and at least 10 more are currently considering recreational marijuana ballot initiatives. As marijuana legalization potentially becomes a reality in more U.S. states, research into the effects of marijuana is likely to increase.

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