Writer's Guide to Government Information

Resources to inject real life detail into your fiction

Drugs and Human Performance Fact Sheets

Drugs and Human Performance Fact Sheets (http://www.nhtsa.gov/people/injury/research/job185drugs/technical-page.htm)

Representative questions that can be answered with this resource:

  • For what sorts of offenses do drivers on GHB get pulled over?
  • How long is cocaine detectable in urine samples?
  • What proportion of fatal car accidents involve cocaine in the blood stream?
  • What are the side effects of cocaine?
  • Is a person in methadone treatment considered a bad driving risk?


This report from the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) is primarily concerned with how particular drugs affect driving. From the introduction:

The Fact Sheets are based on the state of current scientific knowledge and represent the conclusions of the panel. They have been designed to provide practical guidance to toxicologists, pharmacologists, law enforcement officers, attorneys and the general public to use in the evaluation of future cases. Each individual drug Fact Sheet covers information regarding drug chemistry, usage and dosage information, pharmacology, drug effects, effects on driving, drug evaluation and classification (DEC), and the panel’s assessment of driving risks. A list of key references and recommended reading is also provided for each drug. Readers are encouraged to use the Fact Sheets in connection with the other cited impaired driving-related texts.

The information provided is uniform for all the Fact Sheets and provides details on the physical description of the drug, synonyms, and pharmaceutical or illicit sources; medical and recreational uses, recommended and abused doses, typical routes of administration, and potency and purity; mechanism of drug action and major receptor sites; drug absorption, distribution, metabolism and elimination data; blood and urine concentrations; psychological and physiological effects, and drug interactions; drug effects on psychomotor performance effects; driving simulator and epidemiology studies; and drug recognition evaluation profiles. Each Fact Sheet concludes with general statements about the drugs’ ability to impair driving performance. The authors strongly believe that all the above information needs to be taken into account when evaluating a drug.

The drugs covered in this report include:

  • Cannabis/Marijuana
  • Carisoprodol (and Meprobamate)
  • Cocaine
  • Dextromethorphan
  • Diazepam
  • Diphenhydramine
  • Gamma-Hydroxybutyrate (GHB, GBL, and 1,4-BD)
  • Ketamine
  • Lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD)
  • Methadone
  • Methamphetamine (and Amphetamine)
  • Methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA, Ecstasy)
  • Morphine (and Heroin)
  • Phencyclidine (PCP)
  • Toluene
  • Zolpidem (and Zaleplon, Zopiclone)

Included in the fact sheets are estimates of how often people actually drive while under the influence of drugs. Driving after taking LSD, for example, is rare but dangerous when it happens.

Writers interested in knowing how long a character will stay high on a given drug and what sorts of effects they might experience will find this report a good resource. If you’d prefer this report in paper, it may be available through interlibrary loan. See http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/57542622 to see if it might be in a library near you.


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