Estimating the Prevalence of Synthetic Cannabinoid Use Among Commercial Motor Vehicle Drivers: Developing a Pilot Test to Collect Data on Substance Use

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National Surface Transportation Safety Center for Excellence

The extent to which commercial motor vehicle (CMV) drivers are using synthetic cannabinoids (SCs) and the magnitude of SC-impaired driving remains unclear. This study was the first of its kind to specifically pilot test methods to collect SC use data in the CMV driver population. The objectives of this study were to (1) develop an effective method for estimating the prevalence of synthetic substances/designer drugs in CMV drivers and (2) establish preliminary prevalence data on alcohol, synthetics, illicit drugs, prescription medications, and over-the-counter drugs among CMV drivers. Data were collected from an initial focus group followed by anonymous questionnaire and drug test. Eligible participants in both study portions needed to have a valid Class A commercial driver’s license, be currently employed as a CMV driver, and read and speak English comfortably. The drug history questionnaire included data from 206 drivers. The most reported substance was tobacco, with 62 drivers reporting use in the past year (32.80%). The following substances were not reported as used within the past year by any of the participating drivers: benzodiazepines, barbiturates, heroin, ketamine, LSD, PCP, Rohypnol, and SCs. Urine samples were tested for 84 substances. The urine test data included 202 drivers. Of these samples, 35 included at least one positive result (17.33%), 165 had no positive results (81.68%), and two tests had been diluted (0.99%). There were 18 substances found within the urine samples. The total number of positive results for all drivers and substances was 46, as drivers may have had multiple substances with a positive result. Alcohol was detected in 3.96% of driver samples. THC was also found in 3.96% of driver samples. Citalopram, an SSRI, was detected in nearly 3% of driver samples. Three positive results in the urine test showed the presence of opiates oxycodone, hydrocodone, or hydromorphone above the relevant cutoff levels. No driver samples were found to have detectable levels of SCs. This may be because detecting SC use through urine tests can be difficult as SC compositions and ingredients evolve frequently. Overall, the results showed that anonymous data collection is possible and rates of positive drug use are higher than previously identified through standard driver drug testing. Although the results from the pilot test are promising, it is important to consider that driver participation was voluntary. Thus, it is possible that the sample was biased towards drivers who did not use any medications, illegal substances, or SCs.

transportation safety, Drug and substance use, Commercial motor vehicle drivers