Study Suggests Car Crashes are a Common Factor in Cannabis-Related Deaths

Researchers at the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre found that car crashes were responsible for almost 30% of cannabis related deaths, although alcohol was also identified as a significant contributing factor.

A study conducted by the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre has identified motor vehicle crashes as one of the leading causes of "cannabis-related deaths" in Australia.

The research team identified 559 cannabis-related deaths between 2000 and 2018 using data from the National Coronial Information System as part of their investigative study, which found that accidental injury was the most common cause, accounting for 167 of the deaths recorded.

These are people smoking it everyday and probably most of them throughout the day. So they're more at risk of stumbling into the road and getting hit by a car, or if they drive, getting behind the wheel and not being quick to respond to some sort of emergency they find themselves in and causing accidents, or if they're really unlucky, killing themselves. University of Queensland Centre for Youth Substance Abuse Research Director, Professor Wayne Hall

Out of these incidents—which makes up approximately 30% of the total number—there were 125 that were singled out as being related to car crashes.

However, the authors of the study also noted that the majority of the victims had been using a combination of cannabis and alcohol—or other narcotic substances—which made have played a more significant factor than their marijuana use.

In fact, approximately 50% the cases surveyed also involved alcohol in some way, which echoes previous research that identified substance mixing as a source of sizeable harm.

"When cannabis and alcohol are consumed simultaneously, this increases the risk even more considerably," lead author Emma Zahara said.

Although, Zahara also admitted that the study is likely undershooting the true numbers, as the National Coronial Information System only examined incidences were the victim's death was attributed to unexplained or unnatural causes.

According to the Director of the University of Queensland's Centre for Youth Substance Abuse Research, Professor Wayne Hall, this report demonstrates that healthcare providers should be on the lookout for habitual cannabis users, while also warning patients about the potential risks involved.

"Coroners may not know about cannabis use on all occasions, or if they do, may not be aware of how heavy it is," Hall said.

"They do increase their risk of accidental injury and death if they're very heavy cannabis users, in the same way they do if they're very heavy drinkers."

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Hugo Gray
Hugo Gray

Hugo Gray is a Melbourne-based journalist with a body of work that covers a diverse range of topics, including immigration law, sex technology, and now the rapidly expanding cannabis industry.

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