Riding and drug use

We want to send a clear message to the young rider community: never ride after taking recreational drugs.

The appeal comes after a new survey by IAM RoadSmart found that a fifth of young people believed it was okay to drive or ride after taking Class A drugs.

Equally worrying, almost a third of respondents (30%) believe that riding after using prescription drugs carried only a minor threat or no threat to their personal safety on the roads, despite strong evidence that many legal prescription or over-the-counter drugs can play havoc with riders’ co-ordination, focus and fine motor skills.

IAM RoadSmart said the results of the survey highlight a misconception that some prescription drugs have no adverse effects.

William Porter, IAM RoadSmart policy, public affairs and communications manager, said:

“Using Class A substances before riding is an illegal and reckless practice that puts all road users at risk.

“Our research has found that a concerning number of young people are riding under the influence of illegal substances, and think this is okay.”

Mr Porter said better education was needed on drug-riding:

“We call on Government to ensure resources are deployed to prevent re-offending with the introduction of rehabilitation courses for anyone caught drug riding.”

The research comes after figures released by the Department for Transport showed that there has been a big rise in road deaths linked to the use of illicit or medicinal drugs. Drugs were a contributing factor in 10 per cent of all bike fatalities in 2022.

Separate research by the DfT showed that the number of deceased riders with ‘impairment drugs’ present in their systems had increased by over 60% between 2014 and 2021.

What does the law say?

It shouldn’t need saying – but we will! – that it is illegal to ride a motorbike after taking recreational drugs.

Traffic law makes it an offence to ride with certain drugs in your body. The police do not have to show that your riding has been impaired or made worse by the drugs; it simply requires evidence that the drug is present.

Remember, one of the biggest differences between drug use and alcohol is that, relatively speaking, alcohol leaves your body after 24 hours. Recreational drugs do not, and people could test positive several days after taking them.

Our advice is simple: never ride after taking drugs. Even several days later your fine motor skills will be affected, and your decision-making ability impaired.

What about legal drugs?

Where drug laws and riding become complicated is when the rider is taking legally prescribed drugs. After all, if the doctor says you should be taking them, where’s the harm?

The problem is that some prescribed drugs carry side effects that harm your ability to ride, affecting balance, co-ordination, focus and your ability to safely assess the road ahead. They can also make you drowsy.

If you are prescribed any drugs by your doctor, or buy any over the counter medicines from a pharmacist, tell them you ride a bike first. They may advise you not to ride while taking them, or suggest an alternative drug that doesn’t have the same effects.

The list of prohibited drugs below includes many that are taken legitimately – but if they are in your system when challenged by the police the rider is still breaking the law, and their presence carries the same penalties as if they were so-called party drugs. Just a few to be aware of include:

  • Amphetamine, for instance dexamphetamine or selegiline
  • Clonazepam
  • Diazepam
  • Flunitrazepam / Rohypnol
  • Lorazepam
  • Methadone
  • Morphine
  • Opiate and opioid-based drugs
  • Codeine
  • Tramadol
  • Fentanyl
  • Oxazepam
  • Temazepam

This list is not exhaustive. If in doubt, ask.

What about allergies?

Sufferers from the most common allergies such as hay fever often take Piriton - or similar - medicines. However, Piriton uses a drowsy or sedating antihistamine which contains chlorphenamine.

It’s important you don’t ride while taking Piriton-style medicine.

Instead look out for alternatives such as Piriteze, which is a non-drowsy or non-sedating antihistamine which contains cetirizine hydrochloride.

Again, if you are unsure, ask your doctor or pharmacist.

Oh, and always read the label!

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