Driving High Common in Pain Patients Taking
Damian McNamaraJanuary 10, 2019
Driving under the influence of cannabis is common among patients prescribed medical marijuana for chronic pain, in findings investigators, described as "concerning."A study of nearly 800 individuals prescribed medical marijuana showed more than half reported driving within 2 hours of use. About the same proportion said they drove "a little high," and about one in five reported driving "while very high.""I was particularly interested in understanding how people using [cannabis] medically may also be engaging in this risky behavior," Erin E. Bonar, Ph.D., University of Michigan Addiction Center and assistant professor of psychiatry at the University of Michigan School of Medicine in Ann Arbor, told Medscape Medical News."I wanted to see what people are doing [and] how often they are doing this," Bonar added. "We found a pretty concerning rate."The findings were published online January 9 in Drug and Alcohol Dependence.
Mixed FindingsA meta-analysis published in 2016 called attention to the public health risks associated with driving under the influence of cannabis (DUIC), including a potential increase in motor vehicle accidents.However, another meta-analysis published last year revealed that cannabis use was not significantly related to "unfavorable traffic events," including motor vehicle accidents.
"Although prior literature regarding DUIC is mixed, rapidly shifting cannabis policies in the US warrant greater attention to this important public health issue," the current researchers write."There is an urgent need to better understand DUIC in order to inform future prevention efforts," they add.Bonar and colleagues recruited participants 21 years and older seeking certification or recertification for medical marijuana. The 790 patients (mean age, 46 years; 52% men; 81% white) came from three medical cannabis centers in Michigan between February 2014 and June 2015.Most of the participants were unemployed (61%), and 32% were receiving disability benefits.The current study is the first in which people using medical cannabis were asked about their driving, Bonnar said. It is also part of a larger, long-term study of patients taking medical marijuana."The aim is to follow them over time and see what happens to them after they get a card or renew their card, including health outcomes, mental health outcomes, and behaviors," Bonar reported.The investigators asked about cannabis use, for example, in terms of hours high per day and average quantity per week in the previous month.