Universiteit Maastricht

Faculty of Psychology and Neuroscience

Drugs and driving


Drugs and driving has three main projects:

Influence of medicinal drugs on actual on-the-road driving performance in normal traffic

by Stefan Jongen, Joy Perrier, Jan Ramaekers, Eef Theunissen, Annemiek Vermeeren, Eric Vuurman

This present group has developed a number of on-the-road driving tests for assessing medicinal drug effects on driving: i.e the Highway driving test and the Car Following test. The highway driving tests was developed in the eighties and a pivotal study for demonstrating its sensitivity to the detrimental effects of diazepam was published in Science (O’Hanlon et al, 1982). 

The highway driving test has been standardized and applied in about 100 studies for quantifying and comparing the effects of individual antidepressants, anxiolytics, hypnotics, antihistamines and anti-epileptics on on-the-road driving. Together these studies provide an impressive data source on drug effects on driving for general practitioners and psychiatrist who prescribe medicinal drugs and for patients during treatments.

Illicit drug effects on actual on-the-road driving and/or skills related to driving: limits of impairment

by Kim Kuypers, Jan Ramaekers, Eef Theunissen

The driving tests described above have been applied for assessing the dose related effects of marijuana and MDMA (‘ecstasy’) on actual driving performance after single doses, alone or in combination with low doses of alcohol. In addition, studies have designed to associate THC and MDMA induced driving impairments to drug concentrations in serum in order to determine per se limits above which driving impairment becomes apparent.

Effects of low doses of alcohol on actual on-the-road driving of experienced and inexperienced young drivers

by Eric Vuurman

The present project was designed to assess sensitivity of experienced and inexperienced young drivers to the impairing effect of alcohol.

Key publications

  • Leufkens T. R. M., Vermeeren A, Smink B, van Ruitenbeek P, Ramaekers JG (2007) Cognitive, psychomotor and actual driving performance after immediate and extended release formulations of alprazolam 1 mg. Psychopharmacology 191:951-959
  • Vuurman EFPM, Theunissen E, van Oers A, van Leeuwen C (2007) Lack of effects between rupatadine 10 mg and placebo on actual driving performance of healthy volunteers. Hum Psychopharmacology  22:289-97.
  • Kuypers KPC, Samyn N, Ramaekers JG (2006). MDMA and alcohol effects, combined and alone, on objective and subjective measures of actual driving performance and psychomotor function. Psychopharmacology, 187: 476-475
  • Ramaekers JG, Kuypers KPC, Samyn N (2006) Stimulant effects of MDMA 75mg and methylphenidate 20mg on actual driving during intoxication and withdrawal. Addiction, 101:1614-1621
  • Wingen  M, Anderson HF, Botmer J, Langer S, Ramaekers JG (2005) Actual driving performance and psychomotor function in healthy volunteers  after acute and subchronic treatment with escitalopram,  mirtazapine and placebo. Journal of Clinical Psychiatry 66: 436-443
  • Vermeeren A (2004) Residual effects of hypnotics: epidemiology and clinical implications. CNS Drugs 18: 297-328.
  • Theunissen E, Vermeeren A, Oers van A, Maris van I, Ramaekers JG (2004) A dose-ranging study of mequitazine effects on actual driving, memory and attention as compared to dexchlorpheniramine, cetirizine and placebo. Clinical Experimental Allergy, 34 : 250-258
  • O'Hanlon JF, Vermeeren A, Uiterwijk, MMC, Van Veggel LMA, Swijgman HF (1995) Anxiolytics' effects on the actual driving performance of patients and healthy volunteers in a standardized test. Neuropsychobiology 31: 81-88.