In this research area we conduct studies to investigate the impact of pharmaceutical and recreational drugs on activities such as driving and how we can detect driving impairment. We utilise an advanced driving simulator, various ocular monitoring technologies, and a suite of cognitive assessments. We’ve previously examined the effects of MDMA, amphetamines, cannabis alone and in combination with alcohol upon driving performance. Our research has been supported by the ARC, NHMRC, Victoria Police, and VicRoads in collaboration with industry and academic partners.

Pioneering research at Swinburne’s Drugs and Driving Research Unit (DDRU) in the early 2000s demonstrated scientifically the impact of drugs on driver performance, motor vehicle accidents, injury and death. The research also provided evidence that saliva tests could sensitively and reliably detect selected drugs in drivers and that the saliva testing equipment was suitable for roadside field use. The DDRU is now led by Associate Professor Luke Downey whose team aims to conduct high-quality and translatable research in the field of driving impairment detection.

Our studies

This study is examining the effects of the combined effects of alcohol and prescription benzodiazepines on driving performance and related cognitive processes. Participants can be aged between 21 and 40 years old and in good health. 

Participants will be asked to attend Swinburne University on five separate occasions:

  • one screening session for a maximum of 1.5 hours
  • four testing sessions, one week apart, for three hours each.


In each testing session participants will receive either alprazolam (1mg) and alcohol (0.04% BAC), alprazolam and a placebo, alcohol and a placebo, or a placebo only. They will be reimbursed for their time and travel with a $50 Coles Myer voucher at the completion of each testing session.

Contact

Blair Aitken

baitken@swinburne.edu.au

This trial aims to assess the direct effect of combined usage of low (legal) doses of alcohol combined with d-methamphetamine on:

  • higher order cognitive function and neurobehavioral functioning
  • driving performance
  • ocular activity


You may be eligible to participate if you:

  • are aged 21–40
  • are a non-smoker
  • have a full drivers licence
  • have used amphetamines in the past
  • have no pre-existing medical conditions

Note: Additional eligibility criteria may apply to participate in this study.


Participation will involve attending the Centre for Human Psychopharmacology on five separate occasions: 

  • one screening session for approximately 1.5 hours
  • four testing sessions, one week apart, for three hours each.


Participants will be reimbursed for their time and travel expenses upon completion of the study.

Contact

Dr Amie Hayley

View Amie's profile

+61 3 9214 5585

ahayley@swinburne.edu.au

Downey, L. A., et al. (2013). "The effects of cannabis and alcohol on simulated driving: Influences of dose and experience." Accident Analysis and Prevention 50: 879-886.
Hayley, A. C., et al. (2018). "The acute and residual effects of escalating, analgesic-range doses of ketamine on driving performance: A simulator study." Progress in Neuro-Psychopharmacology and Biological Psychiatry 86: 83-88.
Stough, C., et al. (2012). "The acute effects of 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine and methamphetamine on driving: A simulator study." Accident Analysis and Prevention 45: 493-497.

How drugs effect driving in the real-world

Hayley, A.C., Hart, C.L., O'Malley, K.Y., Stough, C.K.K., Downey, L.A. Risky driving behaviours among stimulant drug users and the role of aggression: findings from a national survey. (2019) Addiction, 114 (12), pp. 2187-2196.
Hayley, A. C., et al. (2016). "Amphetamine-type stimulant use and the risk of injury or death as a result of a road-traffic accident: A systematic review of observational studies." European Neuropsychopharmacology 26(6): 901-922.
Downey, L. A., et al. (2017). "Asleep at the Wheel: Concerning Driving after Co-Consumption of Alcohol and Benzodiazepines." Current Drug Abuse Reviews 10(1): 4-5.
Hayley, A. C., et al. (2015). "The Green Light on Ketamine: Considerations for On-Road Safety." Current Drug Abuse Reviews 8(1): 1-2.
Ocular Monitoring
Shiferaw, B. A., et al. (2018). "Stationary gaze entropy predicts lane departure events in sleep-deprived drivers." Scientific Reports 8(1): 2220.
Jackson, M. L., et al. (2016). "The utility of automated measures of ocular metrics for detecting driver drowsiness during extended wakefulness." Accident Analysis and Prevention 87: 127-133.
Shiferaw, B., et al. (2019). "Gaze entropy measures reveal alcohol-induced visual scanning impairment during ascending and descending phases of intoxication." Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs 80(2): 236-244.

Roadside Sobriety Testing

Downey, L. A., et al. (2016). "The Standardized Field Sobriety Tests (SFST) and measures of cognitive functioning." Accident Analysis and Prevention 86: 90-98.
Downey, L. A., et al. (2012). "Detecting impairment associated with cannabis with and without alcohol on the Standardized Field Sobriety Tests." Psychopharmacology 224(4): 581-589.
Downey, L. A., et al. (2012). "Examining the effect of dl-3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA) and methamphetamine on the standardized field sobriety tests." Forensic Science International 220(1-3): e33-e36.

Saliva testing

Hayley, A.C., Green, M., Keane, M., Kostakis, P., Shehabi, Y., Stough, C.K.K., Downey, L.A. Accuracy of the Securetec DrugWipe 6s Ketamine device in detecting acute and residual salivary ketamine following a stepwise intravenous treatment protocol (2020) Journal of the Canadian Society of Forensic Science, 53 (1), pp. 1-12.
Hayley, A. C., et al. (2018). "Detection of delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in oral fluid, blood and urine following oral consumption of low-content THC hemp oil." Forensic Science International 284: 101-106.

Our research in the media

  • PSNI announce new powers to randomly stop drivers and perform drink driving breathalyser tests, Northern Ireland.

    BAC explained: Everything you need to know

    Dr Sarah Benson, a post-doctoral research fellow at our Centre who has been involved in a range of clinical trials assessing the neurocognitive effects of alcohol, explains all things BAC, standard drinks and breathalyser myths.
    Friday 06 December 2019

Contact the Centre for Human Psychopharmacology

There are many ways to engage with us. If your organisation is dealing with a complex problem, get in touch to discuss how we can work together to provide solutions. Call us on +61 3 9214 4444 or email chp@swinburne.edu.au.

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