A new study suggests that heavy marijuana users have the potential to be dangerous drivers. However, hazardous driving appears to be isolated to users who began using marijuana in their teens. The study says that early use is a factor because of the way cannabis affects a developing brain.
The theory is that those early users of the drug are more apt to be impulsive and rash when making driving decisions.
Researchers at McLean Hospital in Boston tested 28 regular cannabis users and 17 non-cannabis users, with an average age of 23. They tested the participants of this study in a driving simulation, monitoring how participants reacted in certain driving situations. The findings showed that early cannabis users (those who began using the drug in their teens), even when sober, drove at higher speeds, were less likely to adhere to red lights, and ultimately got in more accidents.
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"This research suggests that early exposure to cannabis may result in difficulties performing complex cognitive tasks," says Staci Gruber, associate professor of psychiatry and director of Marijuana Investigations for Neuroscientific Discovery at Harvard Medical School and McLean Hospital.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, from 2007 to 2016, the amount of fatal vehicle crashes where drivers involved tested positive for cannabis doubled. With marijuana being the most commonly used illicit drug in the United States, this is concerning and essential information.
Researchers concluded that the poor driving was almost exclusively limited to people who began their marijuana usage in their teens and that these young starters were more impulsive. However, there is nothing that can prove or disprove that the young users weren't already impulsive by nature.
However, Gruber, co-author of this study, says that studies have proven that early marijuana use is linked to changes in brain development that may result in impulsive behavior amongst other things.
Sources: NBC News