As more and more states have been legalizing marijuana for recreational use, marijuana use has been on the rise. But there is growing concern that the use of marijuana is leading to a surge in car accidents, particularly crashes caused by marijuana-induced psychosis.
Marijuana-induced psychosis is a condition in which an individual experiences hallucinations, delusions, and other symptoms of psychosis after using marijuana. These symptoms can potentially impair a person’s ability to function normally and particularly affect their ability to drive safely. And recent studies indicate that car accidents linked to marijuana use may be on the rise.
Understanding the Danger of Marijuana-Induced Psychosis
According to a recent study, the number of car accidents caused by marijuana-induced psychosis is on the rise. The study analyzed data from several states where marijuana has been legalized and found that the rate of car accidents caused by marijuana-induced psychosis increased significantly after legalization. Because more people are using marijuana, a greater number of people are at risk of experiencing the condition.
The increased availability and potency of marijuana may also be contributing to the rise in car accidents. The effects of psychosis induced by marijuana can be particularly dangerous while driving because the hallucinations and delusions can impair an individual’s ability to judge distances and react to hazards on the road. This could lead to risky driving behaviors and also increase the probability of accidents.
In order to address this issue, it is important for drivers to be aware of the potential risks of using marijuana and to take steps to avoid driving while under the influence of the drug. It is also important for lawmakers to consider the potential impact of marijuana legalization on public safety and to implement regulations to protect against the rise in car accidents caused by marijuana-induced psychosis.
How Marijuana Could Trigger Psychosis
Psychosis is a set of symptoms that cause a person to become detached from reality in some way. Psychotic symptoms are characterized by a break from reality. Two of the most common symptoms of psychosis are hallucinations and delusions. Hallucination is essentially hearing, seeing, feeling, or sensing something that is not real. To be delusional means to have persistent false beliefs, even when there is evidence to contradict those beliefs. In addition, psychosis can cause chaotic thoughts, changes in emotions, feelings of detachment, and a sense that people or things around you are not real.
Marijuana is a drug that has the potential to trigger acute psychosis. This means it begins suddenly and stops once the drug has left the individual’s system. Some people who experience this type of psychosis may need emergency treatment because the symptoms can be very distressing. Treatment usually involves placing the person in a calm environment and administering antipsychotic medication.
While cannabis-induced psychosis is usually acute, for some people, the psychotic episode could become chronic. This is particularly true for someone who has an underlying mental illness such as schizophrenia. Studies show that marijuana could trigger episodes in someone who has schizophrenia.
Medical Professionals Report Experiences with Marijuana-Induced Psychosis
A USA TODAY article quotes an emergency room physician from San Diego who talks about dealing with “back-to-back ambulances carrying young people experiencing psychosis after trying marijuana for the first time.” He said since the drug was legalized in California, they see people at each shift with cases relating to marijuana, including some who experience violent vomiting known as hyperemesis. The incidents led to the term “scromiting” to describe people who scream and vomit at the same time.
USA TODAY also reported interviewing a dozen parents whose children suffered psychotic episodes relating to their marijuana use, some of which led to schizophrenia. Several of the children died by suicide, the publication reports. Marijuana-induced psychosis is still a controversial issue, with many proponents of the drug disagreeing that it could cause such extreme consequences.
Medical professionals are increasingly asking that psychiatric risk warnings be added to marijuana packaging and to prohibit most advertising. One study in the Lancet found that the use of high-THC marijuana increased the risk of first-time psychosis by 50% in Amsterdam. Doctors say the more potent the drug, the higher the risk. Medical professionals say growers look to use the highest THC strains, and companies make even higher-concentrated products such as gummies, oils, and waxes, some of which contain up to 90% THC. The psychotic side effects of marijuana have made calls louder for more testing and studies.
Identifying the Early Symptoms of Marijuana-Induced Psychosis
The symptoms of marijuana-induced psychosis set in pretty quickly and without much warning. However, each individual experience is unique, and there may be some early warning symptoms one may be able to identify. These warning signs can include depression, anxiety, withdrawal, paranoia, anger, inappropriately strong emotional reactions, lack of emotional response, difficulty focusing, and speech that doesn’t make sense.
Someone who is experiencing these types of symptoms while using marijuana could be vulnerable to a more severe psychotic episode. If medical or mental health could be provided during these early stages, it may be possible to help the individual feel safe and secure if symptoms get worse. When such symptoms are identified early enough, it could also help others prevent the individual from getting behind the wheel.
Marijuana and Impaired Driving
Marijuana intoxication by itself has the potential to cause impaired driving. Marijuana alters a user’s perception. Most studies agree that marijuana use results in impaired coordination, memory, associative learning, attention, cognition, and reaction time. If a driver is experiencing any of these symptoms, the chance of them causing a dangerous car accident that might require legal action is greatly increased.
So, one’s driving ability is certainly affected, even though the level of impairment could vary. There is evidence to suggest that marijuana impairment increases crash risk. One study found that crash risk increased by 22% while under the influence of marijuana. Mixing alcohol and marijuana also increases impairment. This deadly combination has also been found in a number of fatal crashes.
In June 2021, the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety released a study showing that injury and fatal crash rates in California, Colorado, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington increased in the months following the relaxation of marijuana laws in each state. These states experienced a 6% increase in injury crash rates and a 4% rise in fatal crash rates compared to other Western states where recreational marijuana use was still illegal. Studies have also shown that younger drivers are at a greater risk of traffic accidents than older drivers and that they are most likely to drive under the influence of marijuana.
If You Have Been Injured
Driving under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs is illegal under California Vehicle Code Section 23152 (a). While using recreational marijuana is legal under state law, it is still illegal to operate a vehicle while under the influence. Drivers who are in violation and cause an injury accident can face criminal charges as well as civil liability.
If you or a loved one has been injured or if you have lost a loved one due to the negligence of an impaired driver, please contact an experienced California car accident lawyer who has successfully represented DUI victims and their families to obtain more information about pursuing your legal rights.