Online Program

Overlapping alcohol and marijuana use and unsafe driving among US high school seniors: 1976-2011

Monday, November 4, 2013

Yvonne Terry-McElrath, MSA, Institute for Social Research, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI
Patrick O'Malley, PhD, Institute for Social Research, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI
Lloyd Johnston, PhD, Institute for Social Research, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI
BACKGROUND. This analysis investigated associations between self-reported overlapping alcohol and marijuana use (OAM) and tickets/warnings and accidents among high school seniors. METHODS. From 1976-2011, annual surveys of nationally representative cross-sectional samples of 12th grade students in the coterminous US collected data via in-school questionnaires. Students self-reported past 12-month frequency of (a) using alcohol and marijuana concurrently, and (b) tickets/accidents (responses did not indicate if overlapping/concurrent use directly preceded unsafe driving). Data from 71,594 students were used to examine (a) if the likelihood of tickets/accidents varied by level of substance use involvement (no alcohol or marijuana use; alcohol only; marijuana only or both alcohol and marijuana, but no reported OAM; OAM); (b) whether the number of tickets/accidents was associated with degree of OAM; and (c) the stability of observed associations over time. RESULTS. The likelihood of unsafe driving was significantly higher with each reported level of substance use involvement, and the risks of both tickets/warnings and accidents following either alcohol or marijuana use was associated with the level of reported past 12-month OAM. Associations were generally stable over time and held after controlling for miles driven, substance use frequency, and other factors known to associate with driving under the influence. CONCLUSIONS. Efforts to effectively educate US high school students—especially substance users—on the increased risks associated with combined alcohol and marijuana use are needed in ways that are believable and effective. This increased awareness may be especially needed given recent state policy movement toward legalization of adult recreational marijuana use.

Learning Areas:

Planning of health education strategies, interventions, and programs
Public health or related education
Public health or related public policy
Public health or related research
Social and behavioral sciences

Learning Objectives:
Describe the comparative probabilities of unsafe driving based on degree of overlapping alcohol and marijuana use among US high school seniors. Explain the need to effectively communicate the risks of overlapping alcohol and marijuana use to drivers, especially relatively inexperienced drivers. Discuss the potential impact of recent state policy changes in regards to marijuana use on prevalence of unsafe driving due to overlapping alcohol and marijuana use.

Keyword(s): Adolescents, DUI

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I have been involved in federally-funded research on adolescent substance use and associated harms for the past 15 years.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.