State-of-the-art Review on Drugs & Driving

Combined drug and alcohol use is associated with a very high risk of traffic accident

An estimated 28 000 lives are lost on Europe’s roads every year and a further 1.34 million people are injured. Many of these accidents and deaths are caused by drivers whose performance is impaired by a psychoactive substance. Alcohol remains the number one substance endangering lives on European roads, but use of drugs and medicines behind the wheel, particularly when combined with alcohol, is a major challenge for policymakers.

 Excerpt from Press release by EMCDDA

Alcohol, especially in high concentrations, must remain the principal focus of prevention measures, says the European Monitoring Center for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA). But it calls for combined drug and alcohol use by drivers to be addressed ‘more intensively, given its association with a very high risk of a traffic accident

Statistically, the use of amphetamines, cannabis, benzodiazepines, heroin and cocaine is associated with an increased risk of being involved in and/or being responsible for an accident, and in many cases, this risk increases when the drug is combined with another psychoactive substance, such as alcohol."

Le rapport révèle par ailleurs que le cannabis (THC) est la drogue illicite la plus The report reveals how cannabis (THC) is the most frequently detected illicit drug in drivers (followed by cocaine and amphetamines) and benzodiazepines the most frequently found medicine. Large differences are observed among countries, with more alcohol and illicit drugs found in southern Europe and more medicinal drugs in northern Europe.

Other aspects explored in EMCDDA´s report are the prevalence and the effects of substances on performance. The report concludes: ‘The chronic use of all illicit drugs is associated with some cognitive and/or psychomotor impairment and can lead to a decrease in driving performance even when the subject is no longer intoxicated’. The variety of drugs available today and their use among drivers is one of the concerns raised in the report. 

The European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) is one of the EU’s decentralized agencies. The EMCDDA provides the EU and its Member States with a factual overview of European drug problems and a solid evidence base to support the drugs debate. Today it offers policymakers the data they need for drawing up informed drug laws and strategies. It also helps professionals and practitioners working in the field pinpoint best practice and new areas of research.