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Neurocognitive Correlates in Driving Under the Influence of Cannabis

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Background & Objective: Delta (9)-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is the main psychoactive compound in cannabis and is frequently identified in blood samples from apprehended drivers suspected for driving under the influence of drugs. Changing social norms towards cannabis and higher acceptability towards the drug emphasize the need for in-depth understanding of the acute neurocognitive and psychomotor effects caused by cannabis and how these effects are correlated to driving skills and performance.

Method: In this review, PubMed, Cochrane Central, Scopus, Web of Science, Science Direct, EMBASE and Google Scholar databases were used to identify and select publications up to January 2017 dealing with acute and chronic neurocognitive effects induced by cannabis and ability to drive. Thirty-six publications were selected for this review. The studies conducted were experimental, using simulators or on-road studies and brain imaging (structural and functional) to better understand the acute and chronic effects on cognitive functions comprised in the short and long-term fitness to drive after cannabis consumption.

Conclusion: In a case-crossover self-report study a significant odds ratio increase was found for driving-related injury after combined exposure to cannabis and alcohol compared to cannabis alone (OR of 10.9 and 5.8 respectively). Both, experimental and epidemiological studies have revealed that THC affects negatively both, psychomotor skills and cognitive functions. Studies of the acute effects of cannabis on driving have shown that drivers under the influence of this substance are impaired. Indeed, driving under the influence of cannabis doubles or triples the risk of a crash. Specifically, cannabis use impairs critical-tracking tasks, increases lane weaving, decreases reaction time, and divided attention.
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Keywords: Acute effects; Cannabis; chronic effects; delta (9)-tetrahydrocannabinol; neurocognitive; psychoactive

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: June 1, 2017

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  • CNS & Neurological Disorders - Drug Targets aims to cover all the latest and outstanding developments on the medicinal chemistry, pharmacology, molecular biology, genomics and biochemistry of contemporary molecular targets involved in neurological and central nervous system (CNS) disorders e.g. disease specific proteins, receptors, enzymes, genes. Each issue of the journal will contain a series of timely in-depth reviews written by leaders in the field covering a range of current topics on drug targets involved in neurological and CNS disorders. As the discovery, identification, characterization and validation of novel human drug targets for neurological and CNS drug discovery continues to grow; this journal will be essential reading for all pharmaceutical scientists involved in drug discovery and development.
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