“Pot is the sneakiest of drugs because it takes out your functioning. It decreases reaction time. It messes up judgment. It messes up driving,”
– Steven Jaffe, MD, psychiatrist
For a young driver, there are so many dangers: speed, ego, inexperience and another often ignored danger: drugs.
“I think it’s very irresponsible and it could lead to a lot of dangerous accidents. It’s just as bad as driving drunk – quite possible even worse,” says 17-year-old Allison Meisburg.
Researchers from the University of Montreal studied the habits of 83 male drivers. They found that nearly 20 percent have been high behind the wheel.
“…and I would estimate at least two or three times that number have been in the car in which the driver was stoned,” says Dr. Steven Jaffe, a psychiatrist, who specializes in substance abuse issues.
“[Driving while high] is not as bad as drinking and driving, but it is still bad of course, because you know your reflexes are delayed and all that jazz,” says 16-year old Justin.
Experts say teens simply don’t realize the dangers.
It’s hard to believe, but some kids believe pot helps them driver better.
“They really think they do,” says Dr. Jaffe. “But they don’t. They really don’t. They don’t realize they are impaired. Pot is the sneakiest of drugs because it takes out your functioning. It decreases reaction time. It messes up their judgment. It messes up driving.”
Dr. Jaffe says parents should adopt a zero-tolerance attitude. Remind your kids that pot is a mind-altering drug and not to ride with drivers who are high on any drug. Then, remind them of the consequences.
“The biggest consequence would be you run into another on-coming car during traffic and you kill them and yourself. That’d be the biggest consequence,” says Reggie, 17.
Dr. Jaffe concurs. “It only takes one time to kill yourself and kill somebody else.”
Tips for Parents
According to government studies, nearly 11 million Americans, including one in five 21-year-olds, have driven while under the influence of illegal drugs. Young adults don’t consider driving while high to be as dangerous as driving while under the influence of alcohol, according to John Walters, director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy. Therefore, his office is starting a campaign warning teens about driving while smoking marijuana. Concentration, perception, coordination and reaction time can all be affected for up to 24 hours after smoking marijuana, Walters said.
So how can you determine if your teen has been using drugs, namely marijuana? The experts at the National Institute on Drug Abuse suggest looking for these trouble signs in your teen. He/she may:
Seem dizzy and have trouble walking
Seem silly and giggly for no reason
Have very red, bloodshot eyes
Have a hard time remembering things that just happened
Seem very sleepy or groggy (after the early effects fade, sleepiness may occur)
In addition to these signs, parents should also be alert to changes in any of the following:
Behavior, such as withdrawal, depression, fatigue, carelessness with grooming, hostility and deteriorating relationships with friends and family
Academic performance, including absenteeism and truancy
Loss of interest in sports or other favorite hobbies
Eating or sleeping patterns
Also be on the lookout for:
Signs of drugs and drug paraphernalia
Odor on clothes and in bedroom
Use of incense and other deodorizers
Use of eye drops
Clothing, posters, jewelry, etc., promoting drug use
National Institute on Drug Abuse
Parents. The Anti-Drug.
Office of National Drug Control Policy
University of Montreal