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New Study Shows Cannabis Effects on Driving Skills

Released: 3/1/2013 11:55 AM EST
Source Newsroom: American Association for Clinical Chemistry (AACC)

Mar. 1, 2013 - WASHINGTON – New research appearing online today in Clinical Chemistry, the journal of AACC, shows that cannabis can be detected in the blood of daily smokers for a month after last intake. The scientific data in this paper by Bergamaschi et al. can provide real help in the public safety need for a drugged driving policy that reduces the number of drugged driving accidents on the road.

Cannabis is second only to alcohol for causing impaired driving and motor vehicle accidents. In 2009, 12.8% of young adults reported driving under the influence of illicit drugs and in the 2007 National Roadside Survey, more drivers tested positive for drugs than for alcohol. These cannabis smokers had a 10-fold increase in car crash injury compared with infrequent or nonusers after adjustment for blood alcohol concentration.

In this paper, 30 male chronic daily cannabis smokers resided on a secure research unit for up to 33 days, with daily blood collection. Twenty-seven of 30 participants were THC-positive on admission, with a median (range) concentration of 1.4 µg/L (0.3–6.3). THC decreased gradually with only 1 of 11 participants negative at 26 days; 2 of 5 remained THC-positive (0.3 µg/L) for 30 days.

These results demonstrate, for the first time, that cannabinoids can be detected in blood of chronic daily cannabis smokers during a month of sustained abstinence. This is consistent with the time course of persisting neurocognitive impairment reported in recent studies and suggests that establishment of ‘per se’ THC legislation might achieve a reduction in motor vehicle injuries and deaths. This same type of ‘per se’ alcohol legislation improved prosecution of drunk drivers and dramatically reduced alcohol-related deaths.

“These data have never been obtained previously due to the cost and difficulty of studying chronic daily cannabis smoking over an extended period,” said Dr. Marylin Huestis of the National Institutes of Health and author on the paper. “These data add critical information to the debate about the toxicity of chronic daily cannabis smoking.”

Reporters who wish to receive a copy of the study or arrange an interview with the authors may contact Molly Polen at 202-420-7612 or mpolen@aacc.org

About AACC
The American Association for Clinical Chemistry, AACC, brings together the global laboratory medicine community in the pursuit of improving health and healthcare through laboratory medicine. With more than 8,500 members including MDs, PhDs, research scientists, and others involved in developing tests and directing laboratory operations, AACC advances scientific collaboration, knowledge, expertise and innovation through its many programs, publications and initiatives. For more information, visit www.aacc.org

Clinical Chemistry is the leading international journal of clinical laboratory science, providing 2,000 pages per year of peer-reviewed papers that advance the science of the field. With an impact factor of 7.9, Clinical Chemistry covers everything from molecular diagnostics to laboratory management.


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