New Study: THC Seldom Detected In Injured Dutch Drivers

by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director April 12, 2012

Belgian drivers injured in traffic accidents are far more likely to possess drugs and alcohol in their systems than are Dutch drivers, according to data to be published in the journal Forensic Science International.

Investigators from Belgium and the Netherlands compared the prevalence of alcohol, licit and illicit drugs in the blood of seriously injured drivers over 18 years of age. A total of 535 drivers – 348 from Belgium and 187 from the Netherlands – were assessed in the study.

Researchers reported, “In Belgium, more drivers were found positive for alcohol and drugs than in the Netherlands. … Alcohol was the most prevalent substance among the injured drivers in Belgium (42.5 percent) and the Netherlands (29.6 percent). … In Belgium there were … more positives for THC (8 percent). … In the Netherlands, almost no positive findings for cannabis were recorded (0.5 percent).

THC tends to have a relatively short half-life in the blood of moderate consumers, but may be present at trace levels in the blood of more chronic users for up to 24 hours or longer.

Investigators declared the findings “remarkable” because “the sample of drivers in the Netherlands (was) younger and included more men than in Belgium.” They also noted that cannabis use was far more popular among the Dutch general driving population (2.1 percent) compared to that of the Belgian population (0.49 percent).

They concluded: “The lower prevalence of alcohol in the Netherlands is associated with a much lower number of crashes and killed and injured drivers. … Despite the high prevalence of THC found in the general driving population, surprisingly almost no THC was found in the Dutch injured driver population.”

The abstract of the study, “Prevalence of alcohol and other psychoactive substances in injured drivers: Comparison between Belgium and the Netherlands,” appears online here. NORML’s white paper, “Cannabis and Driving: A Scientific and Rational Review,” is available online here.

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