Effects of marijuana on equilibrium, psychomotor performance, and simulated driving

Behav Pharmacol. 1998 Nov;9(7):599-609. doi: 10.1097/00008877-199811000-00015.


Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is frequently found in the blood of drivers involved in automobile accidents, and marijuana use has been associated with impaired field sobriety test performance. The present study used a within-subject design to compare the effects of marijuana (0, 1.77, or 3.95% THC) on equilibrium and simulated driving. Ten marijuana users (seven men, three women) smoked one marijuana cigarette at the beginning of each session. Then 2 min later, they began a 60-min test battery that included subjective effects scales, a computerized test of body sway, a rapid judgment task and brake latency measurement in a driving simulator, critical flicker fusion (CFF), and a choice reaction time task (CRT). Self-report ratings of 'high' and 'drug potency' increased comparably following both active doses. The high, but not the low, dose significantly increased body sway. The high dose also marginally increased brake latency by a mean of 55 ms (P < 0.10), which is comparable to an increase in stopping distance of nearly 5 feet at 60 mph Judgment, CFF, and CRT scores did not differ across dose conditions. The equilibrium and brake latency data with 3.95% THC are similar to prior results in our laboratory in participants with breath alcohol concentrations near 0.05%.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Affect / drug effects
  • Automobile Driving*
  • Blood Pressure / drug effects
  • Cues
  • Female
  • Flicker Fusion / drug effects
  • Heart Rate / drug effects
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Marijuana Smoking / psychology*
  • Middle Aged
  • Pain Measurement
  • Postural Balance / drug effects*
  • Posture / physiology
  • Psychomotor Performance / drug effects*
  • Reaction Time / drug effects