Driving behavior of alcohol, cannabis, and cocaine abuse treatment clients and population controls

Am J Drug Alcohol Abuse. 2004 May;30(2):429-44. doi: 10.1081/ada-120037386.


Background/introduction: A paucity of research exists on driving after use of cannabis or cocaine among clients in substance abuse treatment and changes in this behavior after treatment.

Objectives: The objectives of this research are to compare treatment clients and population controls before and after treatment in terms of: 1) amount of driving; 2) alcohol, cannabis, and cocaine consumption; 3) driving after use of alcohol, cannabis, and cocaine; and 4) driving infractions.

Method: Telephone interviews were conducted with a sample of 110 clients who received treatment in 1995 for a primary problem of alcohol (n = 44), cannabis (n = 37), or cocaine (n = 29) abuse. A random sample of 104 drivers from the general population, frequency matched by age and sex was also interviewed. Participants were asked to describe their driving habits and driving infractions before and after 1995.

Results: Both treatment and control groups reported about the same amount of driving. The treatment group reported significantly more consumption of alcohol, cannabis, and cocaine than did the control group before treatment. Significant declines in use for each substance were found for the treatment group after treatment, but use for the control group remained stable over the two time periods. Similarly significant declines in driving after use of alcohol, cannabis, and cocaine were found for the treatment group but the control group remained stable. Finally driving infractions, including speeding tickets, collisions, and license suspensions, significantly declined for the treatment group but not the control group.

Discussion: The results confirm that before treatment, the treatment subjects drove more frequently after consuming alcohol, cannabis, or cocaine than the control group. Declines in substance use and driving after treatment were accompanied by reductions in some types of driving infractions. Differences between groups, and over time in terms of driving while under the influence of psychoactive substances better explain the results than differences between groups in impulsivity/risk-taking or sleep problems.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Alcohol Drinking / epidemiology*
  • Alcohol Drinking / therapy*
  • Automobile Driving / statistics & numerical data*
  • Cocaine-Related Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Cocaine-Related Disorders / therapy*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Marijuana Abuse / epidemiology*
  • Marijuana Abuse / therapy*
  • Population Surveillance / methods
  • Time Factors