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Cracking the Whip on Cocaine – Cocaine use and its effect on driving

February 7, 2017 by in category Drug Driving, News with 0 and 0
Home > News > Drug Driving > Cracking the Whip on Cocaine – Cocaine use and its effect on driving

After having been arguably glamorised thanks to the Hollywood-machine, Cocaine has officially been named United Kingdom’s drug of choice. Several musicians, politicians and actors are added each year to the growing list of publicly outed celebrities who have been dabbling in the substance. Cocaine use has been glamorised extensively in Hollywood blockbusters like ‘Wolf on Wall Street’ with Leonardo DiCaprio, ‘Blow’ starring Jonny Depp to more dark-cult favourites like the 1935 ‘The Pace that Kills’. It should come as no surprise that the multi-billion pound fuelled cocaine industry is still a very real problem; despite there being a zero-tolerance to drugs in the law. Amidst tougher drug driving laws aimed at ‘cracking’ the whip on drug users – do people really know the risks that they pose to themselves and others when on the road?

cocaine and driving

What’s all the buzz about?

When somebody ingests the chemical, sometimes alternatively termed ‘Snowflake’, ‘Charlie’, ‘Girlfriend’ ‘Lois Lane’ and ‘Sugar’ – there are layers of effects that are created. Needless to say, the euphoric high that is experienced is one of them (this is presumably why users are ingesting in the first place), as is the boost of confidence and “increased alertness”. But, it must be asked, do users know of the short and long term damage being caused to them?

What are the penalties for Drug Driving?

The current legal limit for cocaine in your blood is 10 µg/L with Benzoylecgonine being 50 µg/L.

The penalties for drug driving are severe – you would be looking at a mandatory disqualification of twelve months and a fine of up to 150% of your weekly income. In the event, it was your second time caught, the disqualification period would be increased to three years. If you happen to cause death by dangerous driving, you could receive a prison term for up to 14 years – very hefty for the sake of a quick fix don’t you think?

Nearly 8,000 people were reported to have been arrested for drug driving in England and Wales between March 2015 and April 2016; with cocaine and cannabis among the illegal drugs that roadside tests will identify.

Short-Term Effects

Regardless of the method of ingestion (snorting, injection or smoking) the psychoactive substance will affect the brain very quickly. Reportedly, the user will feel elation, excesses of confidence and very energetic.

The individual’s speech will become more rapid and their pupils will dilate. These physically noticeable symptoms may cause problems behind the wheel. Users may perform more risky manoeuvres and be unable to gage the true distance between oncoming vehicles; spatial awareness is therefore impeded.

Changes that occur skin deep perhaps presents the most risk to the user. The blood pressure and heart rate will increase tremendously to dangerous levels whilst vital arteries constrict. This could lead to respiratory and cardiac arrests whilst behind the wheel.

Very often, cocaine is termed the ‘silent killer’ – as it does often cause heart attacks (regardless of the users’ age) and can trigger more permanent abnormal heart palpitations. If you were driving at the time of a cardiac arrest, the chances of you becoming involved in a collision is extremely high; more worryingly, your ability to seek urgent medical help will be severely affected and death usually follows. If you experience a sudden cardiac arrest, you will inevitably lose control of your vehicle and become a risk on the road yourself.

Long-Term Effects

Many conditions experienced in later life by long-term users and infrequent users over time have been linked to cocaine use.

Some of these include (but are not limited to):

a. Nasal and Sinus decomposition
b. Arterial constriction
c. Digestive issues resulting in ulcers and gangrene
d. Rhabdomylosis (muscle fibres being permanently destroyed)

Effects on Driving

Contrary to popular belief – cocaine may make you feel more alert and attentive, but accident reports and statistics dispute this. Since 2000, there has been a 408% increase of cocaine abuse amongst drivers on UK roads by 18-30 year olds. Cocaine may sometimes mask the user’s tiredness but higher doses are proven to impair judgement and interfere with concentration.

EU based research such as IMMORTAL[1], outline the correlation between substance abuse and the number of fatalities on the road (versus road users who do not use substances.)

When the driver crashes (comes down off the cocaine high), they can get tired, inattentive and sleepy. This poses its own problems behind the wheel as even a momentary lapse of concentration can be the difference between life and death.

A Spanish study has outlined the dangers of mixing cocaine with alcohol and the reduced ability to perceive your own drunkenness. The prevalence of this dangerous mix is on the rise[2] and is done to frequently to protect the user against the impending ‘crash’ from the substance. This is dangerous as it may give someone a false sense of security that they are ok to drive, when in reality, this is far from the case.

Other known effects on driving are:

a. Slower reaction times
b. Impaired Co-ordination
c. Blurred vision and loss of concentration
d. Increased risk taking behaviours

Other consequences if you’re caught drug driving:

a. Loss of employment
b. Loss of your independence
c. Visa / Travel implications
d. Significant increase in car insurance costs

[1] European Union study, IMMORTAL, 2002
[2] A review of evidence related to drug driving, Department for Transport [2010]

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