Brain and Body

Smokers Are More Likely to Think Driving High Is a Good Idea While They’re High, Study Finds

May 6, 2016 | Kelly Tatera

Woman smoking while driving
Photo credit: MartaZ*/flickr (CC by SA 2.0)

“Being intoxicated affects our perceptions of risk.”

According to researchers at RTI International, marijuana users who were high at the time of taking a survey had substantially higher odds of believing that it was safe to drive while under the influence of marijuana.

These respondents were also more likely to agree with the statement that “It is OK to drive a little bit stoned,” and that they might drive high “in certain situations.” They were also more likely to believe that they wouldn’t get caught while driving under the influence of marijuana, which would result in a Driving Under the Influence (DUI) offense.

Those who aren’t under the influence of marijuana tend to have a different opinion on the safety risks associated with driving high.

SEE ALSO: Young Marijuana Users Show a Unique Response to Social Rejection, Study Finds

"When people are sober, most acknowledge they can't safely drive under the influence of alcohol or marijuana,” co-author Jane Allen, research analyst at RTI, said in a press statement. “The problem is, being intoxicated affects our perceptions of risk.”

The study, which appears in the journal Health Education Research, argues that campaigns could benefit from understanding how messages resonate with individuals who are either intoxicated or sober at the time.

"The public health community would do well to address this in campaign planning and development,” Allen notes.

The researchers suggest that a useful area for future research to look into is whether the content and characteristics of some messages are more memorable or more persuasive than others among those who are high.

The data for the current study comes from surveys of over 1,350 marijuana users in Colorado and Washington in 2014, and the data was refined to include 865 study volunteers who reported using marijuana or hashish in the past 30 days.

Based on analysis of the data, the researchers found that more than 16 percent of the participants reported being high while taking the survey.

Because of this, the study also suggests that online public health surveys should routinely measure the amount of people in a study sample who complete the survey under the influence of marijuana, alcohol, or other drugs.

This could offer new insights into how intoxicating substances change our perception of various issues at the time of intoxication.

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