The Use of Psychoactive Drugs in Truck Drivers

drugsTruck drivers traversing the country to deliver goods are important to the economy. This is especially true in countries with poor rail systems. Truck drivers often have long work hours, short deadlines and tight goals that make their job difficult.

There are a number of factors that go into truck drivers taking psychoactive drugs. Most are used to increase willingness to work, reduce sleepiness and increase socialization. There are some side effects that play into taking these drugs. Amphetamines, for example, can cause tachycardia, agitation, hallucinations and vertigo. These symptoms can increase the risk of getting into traffic accidents.

A search was done of 367 separate studies on psychoactive drug use among truckers. Of these, 34 studies were included in the review. Studies were carried out in areas such as the USA, Brazil and Australia, which were large land areas. A total of 70 percent of studies looked only at male drivers. Of the 36 investigations, about 32 looked at self-reporting as a method of getting data and thirteen looked only at blood drawing to define who was involved in illicit drugs. Some used only forensic samples. The drugs consumed in these studies were alcohol, amphetamines, marijuana and cocaine.   In the fifteen studies that involved biological sampling, amphetamines, marijuana and cocaine presented the greatest risk.

Analyses for identifying amphetamines, marijuana and cocaine were the most common. The average frequency of alcohol self-report was 54.3 percent. There were very few admitting alcohol consumption in Pakistan (9.9 percent) and a high number admitting to alcohol consumption in Brazil (91 percent). Among those showing a high alcohol percentage on forensic samples, the US was the highest at 12.5 percent.

Amphetamine use was low in Italy at 0.9 percent and highest in Brazil at 70.0 percent. Forensic samples of amphetamine use were identified as low in Norway (0.2 percent) and high in Thailand at 82.7 percent.   Less commonly, marijuana use averaged 4.7 percent and cocaine use averaged 1.8 percent. Other substances were more rare, such as opioids, phentermine, codeine, benzodiazepines, antihistamines, energy drinks, coffee and others.

Alcohol use was affiliated with truckers of younger age, being Catholic, having sleep disordered breathing, smoking, having high blood pressure and being involved in more accidents. The usage of amphetamines was related to drivers driving the night shift and being a trucker for a longer period of time. Amphetamine users tended to be younger, drive for longer periods of time, had a higher income and also consumed alcohol.

Some truckers used a caffeinated substance and drove more hours throughout the day. In Australia, stimulants were used when the driver had less experience, worked in small and medium-sized companies, low incomes, fatigue and productivity-based earnings.

Factors involved in using psychoactive drugs overall included having less resting time and working more night shifts. The drivers need to resort to other strategies to stay awake on the job. If the job was productivity-based or there were lower incomes, the use of psychoactive drugs increased.

I’m Ed Smith, a Sacramento Trucking Injury  Attorney with the primary accident information site on the web,

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