MHRA drug safety advice: drugs and driving

A new law to make it easier for police to catch and convict drug drivers took effect today in England and Wales.

Motorists who get behind the wheel after taking illegal drugs face a criminal record, loss of their licence for at least a year and a fine of up to £5000. The legislation makes it illegal to drive with certain drugs in the body above specified levels, including 8 illegal drugs and 8 prescription drugs. People using prescription drugs within recommended amounts will not be penalised.

Police forces will have access to new screening equipment to test suspected drug drivers. Officers can screen drivers for cannabis and cocaine at the roadside. They will be able to test for these and other drugs including ecstasy, LSD, ketamine and heroin at a police station, even if a driver passes the roadside check. New devices that can test for a greater number of drugs at the roadside will be developed in the future.

This new law, coupled with the testing kits, will make it quicker to identify those driving under the influence of drugs and help the prosecution of drug drivers. It remains an offence to drive when impaired by any drug, including medical drugs.

The law covers use of 8 drugs commonly associated with medicinal use, that are sometimes abused, that have been set at higher limits based on the available evidence of the road safety risk and to reflect their use as medicines. These are:

  • morphine used to treat pain – opiate/opioid based medication will metabolise (chemically change) into morphine and show in a blood result
  • diazepam
  • clonazepam
  • flunitrazepam
  • lorazepam
  • oxazepam
  • temazepam used to treat anxiety or inability to sleep
  • methadone used to treat drug addiction

Amphetamine used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and Parkinson’s disease is also planned to be included within the offence shortly, subject to Parliamentary approval.

See drug driving and the law for further detail.

From NICE Medicines Awareness Weekly 2nd – 6th March 2015