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What really happens when you drive under the influence of drugs or alcohol?

Posted By  
12:00 PM

Police have made it known across Australia that driving under the influence of drugs and alcohol is an escalating problem. Essentially, this behaviour – even if the drugs are prescription – can mean you’re placing those around you on the roads in direct danger, as well yourself and passengers in your vehicle.

What’s more concerning is more than 30 per cent of fatal accidents on the roads in Australia are attributed to drink-driving. So be it alcohol or drugs – the message is clear: avoid the roads at all costs.


How drugs and alcohol affect your body

From physical health to mental health – both of these substances severely impact how you operate, whether you’re behind the wheel or not. Both drugs and alcohol have similar effects, but each also causes their own individual consequences.



It affects everyone differently, and also depends on your current health, how much you drink and even your age. In some cases, your gender and physical condition can also play a role in how much your body can tolerate alcohol overall.

Ultimately, when you drink alcohol, it passes through your body via the walls of your small intestine and stomach. It then makes its way through your system, ending up in your brain. From here, it slows down your ability to think and operate, affecting your entire body. You may notice that this is why you have trouble thinking, feeling or behaving in a certain way, when you’ve had a little bit too much to drink.

When you’re on the roads, your defensive driving skills, general operation and capacity to think properly are severely inhibited. As it only takes a few minutes for alcohol to reach your brain, even being slightly over the limit can have disastrous effects. Your blood alcohol content (BAC) rating also indicates various stages of your body’s ability to function. Symptoms include:




Up to 0.05

- Feeling more positive than usual

- Talkative, confident and more relaxed

0.05 - 0.08

- Judgement and movement are  significantly impaired

- Your inhibitions are reduced

0.08 - 0.15

- Speech is slurred

- Balance and coordination are impaired. Your vision and reflexes are also impacted

- Your emotions become unstable.

- Vomiting and nausea may occur.

0.15 - 0.30

- Unable to walk without assistance

- Sleepiness

- Trouble breathing

- Loss of memory

- Loss of control over your bladder

- Potential to lose consciousness

Over 0.30

- Coma

- Potential death.




When you take drugs – be it illicit or prescription – similar effects can be felt to that of consuming too much alcohol. This also places you and those around you in the risk of an accident on the road.

Even drugs that are considered “less risky” – like marijuana – can have a huge effect on outcomes. Any dosage of any drug, over a prolonged period of time, can ultimately play a role. So, how can you expect your body to react when you take any form of drug?

  • Travels to the brain: Initially, the drugs will activate your pleasure circuit within your brain. If you use the drug frequently, your brain may even be used to it and then rewires itself accordingly. Taking it more and more often will also mean you brian needs high dosages in order to feel the ‘euphoric’ state that comes with initiation.
  • Changes brain activity: Upon taking the drug, you start to limit the amount of oxygen available to your lungs and brain. Breathing can also become difficult.
  • Decrease of liver activity: You liver has to work extra hard to break the drug down, which impairs its function. If you pair consumption with alcohol, you’re at even greater risk of long-term damage.
  • Kidney malfunctioning: Your body can no longer regulate temperature properly, leading to muscle issues, severe dehydration and kidney failure.
  • Gut issues: You may feel like you need to vomit or are severely nauseous, even the next day. Drugs like Opioids can cause gastric ulcers and acid reflux.

There are also many long-term effects, with a list that's almost endless. Ultimately, when you’re under the influence of either drugs or alcohol, you’re no longer able to remain in full control of your body or mind. So, how can you expect to remain in control of a vehicle?