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December 4, 2019
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Dangers Of Substance Abuse In The Transportation Industry And Beyond

Dangers Of Substance Abuse In The Transportation Industry And Beyond

Please Note: This article is not only about Truck Operators, it also includes, Airline and other commercial Pilots, Train Operators, Ship Navigators and Captains, Aircraft Controller, Machine Operators or anyone with a DOT, NRC, FMCSA, FAA, USCG, FTA, FRA, PHMSA, MARAD, NHTSA, designation.

To include all of the above, the term Operator will be used herein.

Studies have found that Operators substance abuse is a problem that goes worldwide. Operators admit to using Amphetamines Cocaine and Opiods, while half admitted to drinking. In the United States, Operators have been shown to exhibit reckless drug-using behavior while engaging in their respective capacities that causes accidents through the increase in failed drug tests.

Operators have been steadily failing drug tests required by DOT and other regulator agencies, and private companies more every year. While the amount that fails these drug tests tend to be a little under 2%, that still is a large amount if you think about the number of operators overall in the country. These tests still are not perfect and many truckers operators slip through the cracks as well.

Here Are The Most Common Substances Used


Drivers Operators use their hands, eyes, and feet to control the car; but their hands, eyes, and feet must be controlled by their brains. Safe driving requires alertness and the ability to make quick decisions in rapidly changing situations. Drinking alcohol can have a profound effect on driving skills. For example, drinking can have a negative effect on any of these skills:

  • Reaction Time – Alcohol can slow reflexes, which can decrease the ability to react swiftly to changing situations.
  • Vision – Alcohol can slow eye muscle function, alter eye movement, and alter visual perception, possibly resulting in blurred vision. Night vision and color perception also can be impaired.
  • Tracking – Alcohol can decrease the ability to judge the car’s position on the road, or the location of other vehicles, center line, or road signs.
  • Concentration – Alcohol may cause attention to driving to decrease and/or drowsiness to occur.
  • Comprehension – Alcohol can hinder the ability to make rational decisions
  • Coordination – Reduced eye/hand/foot coordination can be caused by drinking too much alcohol.

Opioid Use

Like all opioid users, truck drivers gain access and become addicted to opioids one of two ways: through recreational use or through legitimate prescription use that becomes an addiction.

Because of the nature of their job, truck drivers are highly susceptible to opioid addiction. Long hours and fatigue become the norm, and drivers find relief in the use of psychoactive substances believing they will help increase their willingness to work.

Opioids are a type of narcotic painkiller naturally found in the opium poppy plant. Some opioids are made directly from the plant, and others are created by scientists using the same chemical structure. Opioids are frequently prescribed for serious and chronic pain, and they are highly addictive. Depending on the dosage and frequency of use, some patients can develop an addiction in just a few weeks.

Opioids are typically prescribed to patients who suffered a physical injury, recently had surgery, or suffer from chronic pain. The most common types of opioids are:

  • Hydrocodone (Vicodin)
  • Methadone (Dolophine)
  • Oxycodone (OxyContin, Percocet, Roxicodone, Oxecta)
  • Morphine (MS Contin)
  • Hydromorphone (Dilaudid)
  • Propoxyphene (Darvon, Darvocet)
  • Fentanyl (Duragesic)


One of the more common drugs that truckers will use are amphetamines. These drugs will also be called uppers or speed and like their namesakes, their function heightens the user’s awareness and stimulates them. Amphetamines are usually used to treat people with ADD or ADHD as well as help with narcolepsy. Truckers will take amphetamines to keep themselves awake and active through the long hours they spend behind the wheel. Instead of taking breaks as they should, some truckers will use amphetamines to go without sleep and help meet strict deadlines.

Amphetamines and cocaine may make driving for long periods without sleep possible but they take a toll on the body when they deny rest. The continued use of stimulants can lead to the buildup of a rest deficit that can cause a number of negative symptoms. The most dangerous of these symptoms is passing out due to fatigue which will almost assuredly cause a truck accident if a person is operating any type of vehicle, Aircraft, Boat, or machinery, when it happens. On top of that, operators can have their reaction times altered and see hallucinations while under the effects of amphetamines or cocaine for long periods. They influence operating behaviors, by making operators  more likely to make reckless maneuvers such as speeding and generally cause drivers to drive in a more frantic hyperactive state.


The most common drug used by truckers is cannabis. Lately, it has become more common than ever for truckers to use cannabis since they cross state lines often and many states now have legalized this drug. Cannabis is not just smoked but can come in edible formats as well as lotions, sprays, and even gum. Its availability, as well as the options of use for cannabinoids, have made its use widespread among truckers.

Marijuana is different from alcohol but some of their effects can be very similar. Cannabis can make drivers drowsy and slow their reflexes, reduce their perception, as well as make concentration difficult; all things that can negatively affect their driving of a demanding semi-truck.


While cocaine is not as commonly used as cannabis and amphetamines, it still is a problem for some operators. Cocaine is in the same family of drugs as amphetamines known asstimulants. They both have similar effects that amp up drivers so that they can stay awake and aware while driving long shifts.

Drug Abuse Causes Accidents

When an Truck Operator, Pilot, Train Operator, Ship Navigator,Aircraft Controller, or anyone with a DOT or NRC designation engages in the risky behavior of on the job drug use, they put everyone in danger. Many destructive accidents and costly mistakes have occurred because an operator felt they could use amphetamines or marijuana while doing their respective jobs the without having to worry about their potential negative side effects.

If there is ever a time that you need a DOT SAP, NRC SAE, a Substance Abuse Professional, or an Advocate, BETTERCALLDARRELL.COM (Conselor Darrell Hartley) is here for you. Your health and well being as well as the safety of others, is our number one concern. Contact us today. Click here

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