Drinking While Smoking Marijuana Doubles Odds of Drunk Driving
To conduct their study, the researchers used data from the 2005 and 2010 National Alcohol Surveys. They analyzed responses from 4,522 women and 4,104 men who were surveyed using a Random Digital Dial Computer Assisted Telephone Interview. The respondents were categorized into three groups: those who had consumed alcohol but never marijuana during the previous 12 months, those who had used both substances but not simultaneously, and those who frequently used the two substances at the same time.
Simultaneous Use Poses Twice the Risk
The results revealed that people who frequently drank alcohol while smoking marijuana were twice as likely to drink and drive as people who used alcohol and marijuana separately or those who only used alcohol. In addition, simultaneous users faced twice the risk of social consequences or harms to self than people who used only alcohol. Finally, the study found that people who regularly drank alcohol while using marijuana drank more frequently and drank heavier quantities of alcohol than the other alcohol drinkers in the study.
This study was the first to examine differences between people who use marijuana and alcohol simultaneously and those who use both substances regularly but not at the same time. The results clearly suggest that it is simultaneous use of marijuana and alcohol that poses a risk rather than the use of both substances regularly but separately.
The findings of this study confirm what many people in the field of alcohol studies have already assumed about the combined effects of these two psychoactive substances. However, having scientific data to support this idea is a critical part of the effort to get users and the people advising them to be aware of the dangers and to act accordingly.
Spreading the News as Marijuana Use Increases
With many states now permitting medical marijuana use and several having legalized recreational marijuana use, the researchers for this study believe that it is important to gather and spread information quickly on how marijuana interacts with the most commonly used (and abused) psychoactive substance in the U.S.—alcohol.
If legal marijuana use continues to increase as the result of policy changes, the government will no longer be able to warn people away from cannabis entirely. According to Meenakshi S. Subbaraman, corresponding author of the new study, experts, “need to be prepared to advise people appropriately” about responsible use of marijuana and the potential risks of using it in conjunction with other legal substances like alcohol.
Subbaraman also says that these findings should encourage the cannabis industry to put warnings on their products to inform people of the risks of combining marijuana and alcohol use.
This study was funded by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.