Drug Policy

Zero Tolerance for Artificial Alertness

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NORML notes that a study reported in the December issue of the journal Traffic Injury Prevention found that Sweden's adoption of a "zero tolerance" law for driving under the influence of drugs was followed by a 10-fold increase in blood samples submitted for tests by police. Under a zero tolerance policy, which the Bush administration has been urging more states to adopt, it is illegal to drive with any detectable amount of a controlled substance in your blood, even if you're not impaired. Since marijuana can be detected long after its effects wear off, driver tests in the U.S. tend to catch pot smokers, whether or not they're driving while stoned. But in the Swedish study, cannabis alone was detected in just 4 percent of cases, cannabis along with other substances in another 20 percent. By contrast, 60 percent of the drivers tested positive for amphetamines. 

Which raises the question: Does the government really want to discourage drowsy drivers from taking stimulants? Since the article isn't available online, I'm not sure how police selected drivers for testing. But even if it turned that drivers involved in accidents were especially likely to test positive for amphetamines, that doesn't mean eliminating amphetamine use by drivers would, on balance, improve public safety. Since sleepy drivers are prone to accidents and people take amphetamines when they're sleepy but need to stay up, testing positive for amphetamines could be a marker for sleepiness. The important question is how many people avoid crashes by taking amphetamines that keep them awake and improve their alertness.

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  1. Sullum-

    Amphetamines, like cocaine, can make a person feel over-confident and loose their sense of judgment. So it could make accidents more likely. Its not as bad as driving drunk, though.

  2. driver tests in the U.S. tend to catch pot smokers, whether or not they’re driving while stoned

    Once upon a time in America you could not test positive for Marijuana even if your were stoned because no test existed that could detect it.

    Amphetamines……Its not as bad as driving drunk, though.

    Until you start the hallucinations…..

  3. Th US Air Force has used ‘go’ pills for years.And ‘no go’ I might add.

  4. Until you start the hallucinations…..

    Well, it would depend on the dose. A meth addict, yeah, he’d be scary. An ADHD kid on Adderall maybe not so much.

  5. “Th US Air Force has used ‘go’ pills for years.And ‘no go’ I might add.”

    If it’s good enough for our “heroes”, it’s good enough for the common man.

  6. Th US Air Force has used ‘go’ pills for years.And ‘no go’ I might add.

    That is prescribed, officially condoned use, I might add. It is given to US Navy pilots before missions as well.

    If amphetamines are OK to take before flying aircraft, how the hell are they not OK to drive on.

    Provigil would probably be better than amphetamines anyway.

  7. Th US Air Force has used ‘go’ pills for years.And ‘no go’ I might add.

    Do they still give the pilots meth?

  8. Do they still give the pilots meth?

    No, probably adderal or some dextroamphetamine equvalent?

  9. If Bush were convicted under all the drug laws he supports – and in past violated – he’d probably still be in prison.

  10. Warty, I’m still tempering my RP enthusiasm by constantly chanting:

    “Ron Paul has got to stop infecting me with his horrible, horrible optimism”-Warty

  11. What I want to know is, are those flyboys taking “go pills” over twenty-one?

  12. Speed makes me wayyyy too paranoid when I drive. I check 4 to 5 times when crossing a street and incessantly look at my rear view mirror. However, I do enjoy the feeling. Makes me feel important.

  13. Well, it would depend on the dose.

    Depends on the person. I dunno about TWC, but I start to hallucinate after a few days without sleep, sleep prevention aids or no.

    When the spiders come out from under the monitor, it’s time to get some some sleep no matter who wants what by yesterday.

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