The shocking news today that the driver suspected of causing the horrific triple-fatal crash on the NSW south coast this week was likely under the influence of methadone throws the NSW police’s drug-testing regime into sharp focus.
Methadone and other opitates, whether legally obtained or not, are not tested under the police’s high-profile roadside drug-testing yet are known to cause driver impairment.
In fact many on methadone (to wean heroin users off the illegal substance) have been known to ’nod off’ or go to sleep at the wheel and crash their cars.
Not even heroin is tested for, a known sleep inducer.
So too amphetamine users, who tend to drive for too long without sleep or drive aggressively.
And the drug of choice of the rich, cocaine, is also not tested for yet has similar effects to speed.
But the police tests only target methamphetamine (speed or ice), ecstasy (MDMA) and most controversially, drivers with traces of cannabis (THC), where driver impairment is not under serious question but thousands of law-abiding citizens are being made criminals as a result.
This is just plain wrong. Politicians, especially health and police ministers, should take note, it’s a stupid testing regime and not making our roads safer if some drugs are in and others, known to be more lethal when used by motorists, are out.
If anything, evidence suggests cannabis users tend to slow down and be more careful when under the influence of a joint or two, and it’s no surprise why amphetamine is known as ‘speed’: users behind the wheel can be similar to alcohol-affected ones and should be removed from the road.
Police also do not test for tranquiliser-type prescription drugs such as sleeping tablets (benzodiazepines) or codeine-based ones: only in the case of an accident where the driver is suspected of being under the influence of drugs at the time.
It may be a bit too late then…
If road safety is the aim of the testing, why is Australia one of the only countries targeting cannabis users where no levels of impairment are measured? It seems discriminatory and pointless, especially in an age where society is maturing and decriminalising cannabis use for medicinal and recreational use.
There is no doubt medical cannabis interferes with the testing regime, as even minute traces of THC, the active compound in cannabis, are detected in the saliva tests and we know hemp food such as hemp seed or oil is becoming more popular and consumed regularly in a health-conscious age.
However, police maintain it won’t interfere with the tests, but other cannabis experts beg to disagree and the question is yet to be fully resolved.
We know the war on drugs is costly and useless, as record illegal-drug seizures attest, and many, including former ice addicts, say if cannabis was decriminalised, ‘ice’ would no longer be the huge problem it is now.
But some politicians, police, health bureaucrats and ’big pharma’ (the pharmaceutical industry) are hell-bent on keeping cannabis users (around two million in Australia according to some sources) on the wrong side of the law.
This is patently an unfair political testing regime and should be changed, removing cannabis until such a time as proper impairment levels can be measured.
We welcome roadside driver testing where safety of motorists is the end game and impairment-causing drugs such as speed and ice are tested for as well as heroin, cocaine, legal opiates and other driver-impairing drugs.
But drivers with methadone in their system are currently undetectable and a lethal danger to other road users.
In our own region, we recall the tragic triple fatality at Dyraaba near Casino in 2013 where two young kids and their father were killed when a driver with methadone in his system crashed into their car and was later jailed over the deaths.
Unlike amphetamines or opiates, cannabis testing, while no impairment is measured, is causing unrest among our youth and leading them to try other drugs not tested for, let alone the disrespect for the bad law and authority.
Another factual and timely article. The war on cannabis, a non toxic and important medicine, is a waste of time and resources and exposes politicians and police to charges of incompetence and/or corruption. States in America where cannabis is legal have seen reduced road tolls, reduced opioid addiction and deaths and a huge source of tax income. No one can dispute these facts so why does this war last one more day.
The head of NSW Police Traffic Branch was warned of psychotic drugs prescribed by psychiatrists that give the patient the same “high” as someone on a heavy dose of THC and doctors prescribe it for pain as it cuts off the body’s supply of dopamine to the brain in that the patient can’t feel the pain they were in ; This stuff causes chronic anxiety and depression and makes the person feel scared of those around them especially in motor vehicles of the withdrawal symptoms are well documented throughout the world for the harm it does.
Much of the stuff prescribed does not show up in the blood so the carnage on the road or in suburbia will get another blame for what is has caused it to happen and the medical profession, especially the psychiatrists never feel the hurt they have caused because many are on the stuff themselves .
Nevil “this stuff” you are referring to, I can only assume you mean cannabis? In actual fact there is a small amount of people who are effected in the manner you mentioned. In some cases cannabis can assist in depression, anxiety. Marijuana does not cause anxiety, it is simply the trigger. Alcohol or a plethera of other substances could do the very same thing…trigger anxiety or depression. Alcohol is a KNOWN depressant! People who are susceptable to these conditions can have a reaction to many other drugs, suppliments & alcohol, so please do not blame cannabis/marijuana for that
All drugs should be tested for, prescribed or otherwise.
Impairment should be tested for, caused by prescribed medication or otherwise.
All that is needed to show impairment is a well designed IMPAIRMENT TEST, part physical, and part computer screen, for physical control, and for reactions to road situations.
Then it does not matter what would be the cause of potential or actual impaired driving, including too tired,
The current regime IS NOT focused on impairment, or even the majority of substances that can cause impairment, as this good truthful article points out.
Its focussed on tossing peoples rights and has nothing to do with driving. Ridiculous, misdirected for status quo opposition profits only in the end, and it does not make roads safer at all! This is CORRUPTION!
Right now there is no probable cause (bad driving), no warrant, and no impairment shown or needed, yet we can arrested for having Cannabis metabolites in our systems that could come from big use food sources or other use, oil, flower, etc, weeks before. Being in better health and feeling better should not be a crime!
With toxic substances the body gets them out as quick as possible, but with Cannabis, the body retains it as it is healthy for our endocannabinoid systems & body, a fact authorities ignore. Cannabis is not toxic and cannot kill like most other substances, from direct use.
Tests showing alcohol levels shows impairment, but this is NOT the case with Cannabis. and varies with others.
Testing for every substance is not so easy or enough anyhow.
A plain and simple impairment test procedure would show impairment no matter what it was, if at all, and it could be, again, just too tired. and slow to react.
It seems the authorities are too mentally impaired themselves to understand this, as they cannot figure it out.
The authorities, govt & police, are the real, and incompetent, danger. Get THEM off the roads, until they actually can do something to help, with all of it.
The police turn a blind eye to drug addicts getting there fix at the chemist and then getting in there car and driving off. They target hotels for drinkers. Methodone users have been driving around for at least 40 year’s. They get there methodone eary in the day when no police cars are around. And nothing has been done. Wake up.
Here’s a list of studies and research concerning marijuana and driving, many were funded by various national governments:
“Marijuana has a measurable yet relatively mild effect on psychomotor skills, yet it does not appear to play a significant role in vehicle crashes, particularly when compared to alcohol. Below is a summary of some of the existing data.”
“There was no indication that cannabis by itself was a cause of fatal crashes.”
REFERENCE: Washington, DC: US Department of Transportation, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Report No. DOT HS 808 065, K. Terhune, 1992.
“Drivers under the influence of marijuana retain insight in their performance and will compensate when they can, for example, by slowing down or increasing effort. As a consequence, THC’s adverse effects on driving performance appear relatively small.”
REFERENCE: U.S. Department of Transportation study, 1993
“Evidence from the present and previous studies strongly suggests that alcohol encourages risky driving whereas THC encourages greater caution”
REFERENCE: University of Adelaide study, 1995
“There is no evidence that consumption of cannabis alone increases the risk of culpability for traffic crash fatalities or injuries for which hospitalization occurs, and may reduce those risks.. The more cautious behavior of subjects who have received marijuana decreases the impact of the drug on performance, whereas the opposite holds true for alcohol.”
REFERENCE: Marijuana: On-Road and Driving-Simulator Studies; Epidemiologic Reviews 21: 222-232, A. Smiley, 1999.
“Both simulation and road trials generally find that driving behaviour shortly after consumption of larger doses of cannabis results in (i) a more cautious driving style; (ii) increased variability in lane position (and headway); and (iii) longer decision times. Whereas these results indicate a ‘change’ from normal conditions, they do not necessarily reflect ‘impairment’ in terms of performance effectiveness since few studies report increased accident risk.”
REFERENCE: UK Department of Environment, Transport and the Regions (Road Safety Division), 2000.
“At the present time, the evidence to suggest an involvement of cannabis in road crashes is scientifically unproven”.
REFERENCE: G. Chesher and M. Longo, 2002.
“Cannabis alone, particularly in low doses, has little effect on the skills involved in automobile driving. Cannabis leads to a more cautious style of driving. However it has a negative impact on decision time and trajectory. This in itself does not mean that drivers under the influence of cannabis represent a traffic safety risk”
REFERENCE: Canadian Senate Special Committee on Illegal Drugs, 2002.
“The evidence to suggest an involvement of cannabis in road crashes is scientifically unproven.”
REFERENCE: Franjo Grotenhermen, MD and Ethan Russo, MD (Haworth Press 2002).
“There was a clear relationship between alcohol and culpability. In contrast, there was no significant increase in culpability for cannabinoids alone.”
REFERENCE: Accident Analysis and Prevention 32(5): 613-622. Longo, MC; Hunter, CE; Lokan, RJ; White, JM; and White, MA. (2000)
“Although cognitive studies suggest that cannabis use may lead to unsafe driving, experimental studies have suggested that it can have the opposite effect.”
“No differences were found during the baseline driving segment (and the) collision avoidance scenarios,”
REFERENCE: Research published in the Journal of Psychoactive Drugs, 2010
“20 years of study has concluded that marijuana smokers may actually have fewer accidents than other drivers.”
“The study found that those with a blood alcohol level of 0.12% were over 30 times more likely to get into a serious accident than someone who’s consumed any amount of cannabis. .. The least risky drug seemed to be cannabis and benzodiazepines and Z-drugs.”
REFERENCE: Accident Analysis & Prevention; Volume 59, October 2013, Pages 346–356
Acute cannabis consumption and motor vehicle collision risk:
“There is no evidence that consumption of cannabis alone increases the risk of culpability for traffic crash fatalities or injuries for which hospitalization occurs, and may reduce those risks.”
REFERENCE: British Medical Journal, 1999; M. Bates and T. James Blakely
Why isn’t Methodone and heroin tested on the roads? Hello, is, anyone taking notice, these drugs make you sleepy…..
Excellent editorial opinion. Congratulations for getting it so right. We are hearing daily how successful the saliva testing is working to stop pot smokers…..instead of weed they’re taking up drinking more especially, but also opiates often or substitutes like Methadone (method one invented by the Nazis), coke, all sorts of pills. Mushrooms, acid, whatever doesn’t show up in the tests. There is little respect for the actual laws it’s just what you can get away with. Of course driving impairment tests are valid but respect is what’s really needed and the lies regarding drug use are catching up with us big time on that score.