Behaviours – Drugs and Medication

Myths and Facts

There are many misconceptions surrounding drugs and driving, such as the belief that police officers cannot detect drivers who have been smoking cannabis. We can now state that this is false!

“When I'm under the influence of cannabis, I am completely in control.”

False! Cannabis affects your ability to drive. When you are under the influence of cannabis, you have slower reaction times, more difficulty controlling your trajectory and coordinating movements. You have a much greater risk of being involved in an accident.

You should never drive within 5 hours of smoking cannabis or 6 to 7 hours after ingesting cannabis in another form.

Useful information

Cannabis is the same thing as…

Pot, weed, mary jane, hashish, cannabis sativa, Indian hemp, marijuana, etc.

“Police officers cannot check whether a driver is under the influence of drugs.”

False! Police officer can assess a driver's ability to drive by administering roadside tests and, if necessary, more extensive tests at the police station.

Physical coordination tests

These are tests that police officers can administer on the side of the road if they suspect that a driver is impaired by alcohol or drugs. These include balance, walking and eye movement tests.

These tests may be enough to place a driver under arrest and bring him or her to the police station for more extensive tests.

Drug recognition experts

These experts are police officers trained to administer more extensive tests to drivers whose condition so requires.

These tests include measuring blood pressure, temperature, heart rate, pupil dilation, examining the mouth as well as urine or saliva tests.

If applicable, the results of the tests will be submitted as evidence to the Directeur des poursuites criminelles et pénales for possible prosecution under the Criminal Code.

Tricks for beating the tests don't work

Because the effectiveness of the tests has been scientifically proven.

“I've been drinking or smoking pot, but I'm not going far.”

Wrong! About 45% of accidents occur near the home. This is what happens:

  • when a route is familiar, drivers tend to pay less attention and switch to “auto-pilot,” which means that their vigilance is decreased and reaction times are slower
  • when drugs are involved, judgment is impaired. This can lead drivers to make errors that are easily noticed by police officers or cause an accident

“I can always take back roads to avoid the police.”

This isn't a good idea! If you have taken drugs, even in small quantities, you might think that you are less likely to come across a police car on back roads or less busy roads… However, police officers know about these tactics, and increase their surveillance in less travelled areas.

“I drank or smoked yesterday, I still risk being arrested.”

Police officers can detect traces of uneliminated alcohol or drugs using screening tests only if your ability to drive is impaired.

“I only smoke pot. This is quite harmless, because it's a soft drug.”

Driving under the influence of cannabis or other soft drugs

Using soft drugs results in poor distance perception, speeding, difficulty maintaining a steady speed and a straight course as well as decreased reflexes.

These are all factors that could cause an accident!

Driving under the influence of a hard drug such as heroin or cocaine

The effects of these drugs are strong! Cocaine and heroin, for example, are powerful substances with disinhibiting effects that cause a euphoric state where everything seems possible and allowed.

At the wheel, these drugs cause aggressiveness that results in excessive speeding and taking foolish risks, such as overtaking another vehicle in a curve or changing lanes suddenly.

“Medication is not as dangerous as illegal drugs.”

Some medications prescribed by health care professionals or sold over the counter can affect your ability to drive because they may cause:

  • drowsiness
  • dizziness
  • blurred vision
  • decreased concentration
  • memory problems
  • etc.

These medications can include tranquilizers, antidepressants, sleeping pills, antihistamines (for allergies), decongestants (for sinus problems or coughing, etc.), muscle relaxants and many others, such as painkillers that contain opioids or other substances.

Almost all types of medications can cause side effects that affect your ability to drive, and these side effects may vary from person to person. Medications that cause drowsiness are particularly dangerous when driving.

You take medication and you have to drive?

Consult your physician or pharmacist to know about the effects of your medication on driving.

Carefully read the instructions and pay special attention to any contraindications to driving, regardless of whether the medication is prescribed by a physician or sold over the counter.