Rehab 4 Addiction

Using cocaine can have a significant negative impact on your driving skills.

An extremely powerful stimulant, cocaine can reduce your ability to make good decisions, impair your judgement and endanger your health, all of which could easily lead to reckless overconfidence and disaster on the road.

What is drug driving?

Drug driving

Driving under the influence of certain drugs, even if they have been prescribed to you by a doctor, is illegal.

These may include illicit substances such as cocaine and heroin as well as legal substances such as alcohol and certain prescription medications.

Drug driving is illegal because the effects that these substances can have on your brain and body may impair you and prevent you from driving safely.

UK law has a zero-tolerance approach to drug driving. Legal limits have also been set in order to rule out accidental exposure.

While the limit for alcohol is set at the point in which the substance will begin to impair your driving ability, the limit for drugs is set at the amount in which the drugs may have been ingested second-hand or through therapeutic means.

What are the symptoms of cocaine use?

Cocaine use

As cocaine is a stimulant drug, carrying a noticeable effect on your thoughts and actions.

Commonly snorted, rubbed on the gums or injected, cocaine can begin to take effect within 5-30 minutes of ingestion and can last for 30-40 minutes.

You may feel as though you are acting normally when you use cocaine, but to other people you may appear to be acting erratically and unpredictably.

It can be easy to spot the signs of cocaine use when you know what to look out for, as many people who use this substance exhibit similar symptoms and side effects.

Some of the most common symptoms of cocaine use that may have an impact on your driving include:

  • Feeling overconfident
  • Euphoria and happiness
  • Bursts of energy
  • Lack of judgement
  • Poor decision-making skills
  • Acting impulsively
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Psychosis
  • Increased risk of heart attack or stroke

The above side effects can increase your risk of being involved in a road accident and potentially put yourself and others in danger.

How does cocaine use affect my driving?

Cocaine and driving

Cocaine can have a significant impact on your driving skills, turning you from a safe and competent driver into a potential road hazard.

The amount that you will be affected by your cocaine use depends on several factors. These include:

  • Your personal tolerance to cocaine – if you use this substance regularly, you may be used to a higher amount than someone who has only used it once or twice.
  • The amount of cocaine you have taken – the more you take, the more you will be affected.
  • Any other substances in your system – if you have used alcohol, heroin or any other drugs alongside cocaine, you are likely to experience more severe effects.

Some of the most common effects of cocaine use on your driving include:

  • Loss of concentration
  • Difficulty focusing on the road and driving
  • Increased sensitivity to light, potentially affecting your vision
  • Lack of coordination
  • Poor judgement skills
  • Impulsiveness
  • Overconfidence

You may feel overconfident in your driving abilities and take more risks as a result, such as overtaking on a bend or driving over the speed limit.

Your judgement skills may also be affected, making it more difficult for you to determine the distance and speed of other cars.

Some people believe that a small amount of cocaine can help them to more easily focus on their driving.

However, this has not been sufficiently proven and the dangers of this behaviour far outweigh the potential benefits.

Why does cocaine use affect my driving?

Cocaine use

Cocaine has many detrimental effects on your brain and body, many of which can impact your driving skills.

Dopamine

Cocaine causes the brain to release large amounts of dopamine and then prevents this dopamine from being recycled for future use.

This causes extreme euphoria and happiness in many people, followed by an intense emotional crash.

This prolonged sensation of pleasure is not a natural state and can cause you to lack the crucial sense of danger that is required for proper hazard management.

Heart problems

Using cocaine puts you at a greater risk of suffering a heart attack or stroke, as the heart has to work much harder when this substance is in your system.

Cocaine causes your heart to pump faster and even beat out of time, potentially leaving you incapacitated behind the wheel of an out-of-control vehicle.

Withdrawal

Cocaine takes effect in the body and brain very quickly and then begins to dissipate just as quickly.

The comedown from taking cocaine can be particularly intense, and many people feel as though they have the flu. This can cause you to feel exhausted and fatigued, which makes it more difficult to concentrate on the road.

What are the dangers of driving after using cocaine?

Consequences of drug driving

You may be aware of the dangers that come with driving under the influence of alcohol, but cocaine can have similarly hazardous effects on your driving skills.

These include losing concentration and focus on the road, becoming incapacitated after suffering a heart attack or stroke and making dangerous decisions due to a lack of judgement.

Some of the most common dangers of driving after using cocaine are listed below.

You may suffer a heart attack or stroke at the wheel

Using cocaine puts a noticeable strain on your heart, making it beat faster and work much harder.

Using cocaine can also increase your blood pressure and potentially disrupt the natural rhythm of your heart, all of which can lead to a heart attack or stroke.

If you suffer from one of these serious medical conditions while you are driving, you are likely to be incapacitated and unable to control the vehicle.

This makes you a danger on the road, as you may crash the car or hit a pedestrian.

You may act impulsively and make dangerous decisions

Cocaine can increase your confidence and make you feel invincible, potentially leading you to make risky decisions and take impulsive actions.

You may believe that you can make it through the lights before they turn red and end up running a red light, or drive without ensuring that you and your passengers are wearing seatbelts.

These actions increase your chances of being involved in a road accident and seriously injuring yourself or another person.

You may lose concentration while driving

It’s common to feel restless and agitated when using cocaine, and this can make it difficult to concentrate while driving.

While driving may feel effortless and automatic, in reality it requires a lot of concentration.

If you lose focus and allow your mind to drift, you pose a danger to other drivers.

You may not realise that you are approaching a pedestrian crossing or driving past a busy school, and as a result, you are less likely to take the appropriate action to ensure the safety of others.

You may not be able to react to potential hazards in time

Similar to the above point, using cocaine before driving can impair your reaction time and prevent you from reacting to potential hazards in a timely manner.

If a child suddenly runs out into the road in front of your car, you will usually be able to brake in time under normal circumstances.

However, if you have been using cocaine your reaction times may be slower and you may not be able to stop in time.

These are preventable accidents that may not have occurred if you were not driving under the influence of cocaine.

Is there a legal limit for cocaine when driving?

Police stop

As cocaine is classified as a Class A illegal drug in the UK, drivers are not permitted to use this substance.

The law states that the legal limit for driving under the influence of cocaine is 10 micrograms per litre of blood, which is a zero-tolerance limit.

If you take any amount of cocaine before driving, it is highly likely that you will be found to be over the legal limit.

Even if you take cocaine hours or even days before driving, you may still be unknowingly driving over the legal limit.

Cocaine can remain in your system for up to three days and may take even longer to pass through the body if you are a heavy and/or frequent user of this substance.

On average, the levels of cocaine in your blood will peak after approximately 30 minutes. These levels will reduce by 50% every hour, which can be a slow process if you are planning to drive on the same day.

As well as the other detrimental effects that this substance can have on your physical and mental health, cocaine can also severely impact your driving skills and may place you and other road users in danger.

Although there is technically a legal limit for cocaine while driving, it is extremely unlikely that you will fall under this limit if you take cocaine before driving.

What happens if I am caught driving under the influence of cocaine?

Consequences

As it is illegal to drive under the influence of cocaine, you will face severe penalties for this behaviour if you are found guilty.

If the police believe that you are driving under the influence of cocaine, they have the power to pull you over and ask you to complete a field impairment assessment.

This involves a range of tests that can help the police to determine whether you are impaired by cocaine or another substance.

You may be asked to walk in a straight line, stand on one leg or bring your finger to your nose.

These tests are designed to examine coordination and other factors that can indicate substance use.

It is possible to test for cocaine in your system by using a roadside drugs test, and the police may choose to do this depending on the results of your field impairment assessment.

If you fail your field impairment assessment and/or are found with traces of cocaine in your system, you will be arrested and taken to the police station.

Once you arrive at the police station you will be subjected to a blood or urine test, and will likely be charged with drug driving if you are found to be driving under the influence of cocaine.

The penalties for drug driving include a driving ban for a minimum of 12 months, up to six months in prison, an unlimited fine and a criminal record which may affect your future prospects.

This can lead to a loss of employment, an increase in your car insurance costs, difficulty travelling to certain countries and financial troubles.

If you are also found in possession of cocaine you can be sentenced to up to seven years in prison and/or an unlimited fine.

Cocaine driving statistics

Cocaine paraphernalia

Sometimes, plain facts are the best way to highlight the dangers of driving under the influence of cocaine.

It has been scientifically proven that cocaine has the ability to seriously impair your driving skills and cause you to become a potential danger to yourself and other road users.

Some concerning facts about driving under the influence of cocaine are listed below.

  • Your chances of being involved in a fatal or serious injury crash are increased by 2-10x when driving under the influence of cocaine.
  • Drugs are a factor in over 1 in 20 fatal accidents in the UK.
  • 1 in 6 college students with access to a car were found to have driven under the influence of drugs, with cocaine being the second most common substance.
  • When 265 people who were fatally injured in car accidents were tested, 7.9% of them were found to have cocaine in their system.
  • Cocaine is commonly combined with alcohol and cannabis in many drug-driving offences.

While it is never recommended to use cocaine in any recreational setting, it is particularly hazardous to use this substance before driving.

If you are concerned that you have a problem with cocaine, contact our team at Rehab 4 Addiction who will be able to provide you with professional advice and guidance without judgement or criticism.

References

https://www.gov.uk/drug-driving-law

https://nida.nih.gov/publications/drugfacts/cocaine 

https://www.brake.org.uk/get-involved/take-action/mybrake/knowledge-centre/drug-driving

https://nida.nih.gov/publications/drugfacts/drugged-driving

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12214346/

boris

Boris is our editor-in-chief at Rehab 4 Addiction. Boris is an addiction expert with more than 20 years in the field.  His expertise covers a broad of topics relating to addiction, rehab and recovery. Boris is an addiction therapist and assists in the alcohol detox and rehab process. Boris has been featured on a variety of websites, including the BBC, Verywell Mind and Healthline.