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Medical Marijuana and Chronic Pain Management—Do Not Drive

Despite Unknowns, Many Users are Driving While High

A report from the University of Michigan Addiction Center raises concern over the lack of education and guidelines on the impact of marijuana use for chronic pain on driving impairment. The study found that 56% of respondents who had used cannabis for pain management had also driven within 2 hours of consumption ≥1 times in the past 6 months. 21% of respondents reported that they had been ‘very high’ while so doing. The authors state that the impact of cannabis on coordination and reaction time, about which much is still uncertain, highlights the need for more research and increased caution. Lead author Erin Bonar, PhD, assistant professor of psychiatry and a practicing clinical psychologist at the U-M Addiction Treatment Services, remarked, “When it comes to driving, we haven’t yet figured out the best way to know how impaired marijuana users are at any given time. The safest strategy is to not drive at all on the day you used marijuana.” The findings were reported in the journal Drug & Alcohol Dependence.

The findings are based on a survey of 790 users of medical cannabis in Michigan who sought certification or recertification for use for their chronic pain in 2014 and 2015. Subjects were queried on their driving habits during the prior 6 months. Dr. Bonar observed that, “With alcohol, you can do some quick math based on the amount you drank and take an educated guess at your blood alcohol level. For marijuana, an estimate like this would be complicated. It’s hard to quantify because there is a lot of variation in marijuana dosing, THC potency, and route of administration. We also don’t have specific guidelines yet about when exactly it would be safe to operate a vehicle.”

Read more about medical marijuana.

Read about the study findings.

The journal abstract may be read here.

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