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Drugs and driving

Driving under the influence of drugs is dangerous and affects your driving ability—increasing your risk of having a crash. Drugs can affect your driving by causing:

  • reduced ability to judge distance and speed
  • distorted perception of time, place and space
  • reduced coordination and concentration
  • hyperactivity
  • aggressiveness
  • paranoia
  • hallucinations
  • blurred vision
  • convulsions
  • dizziness and fainting
  • fatigue
  • memory loss
  • nausea
  • tremors
  • unpredictable moods/behaviours
  • unconsciousness
  • muscle weakness.

Random roadside drug testing

Just like random breath tests, you can be pulled over by Queensland police officers for a random roadside saliva test to detect any presence of illegal drugs. The tests can be carried out at random breath testing sites and at targeted drug test sites. You can also be pulled over and tested by a police officer if they suspect that you are driving under the influence of drugs.

Drugs that are tested

Police can ask you to provide a saliva sample at a roadside drug test to detect the presence of:

  • Methylamphetamine—also known as speed and ice
  • MDMA—the active ingredient in ecstasy
  • THC—the active ingredient in cannabis.

These are listed as relevant drugs under legislation.

How the testing process works

You will be asked to provide a saliva test that will take 3 to 5 minutes to return a result. Saliva tests are only used to detect drugs and are destroyed when they are no longer required. If you can’t provide a saliva sample, you may be asked to provide a blood sample for testing.

Your saliva test will produce either a:

  • negative result—this means no drugs were detected and you can continue on your way
  • positive result—this means drugs have been detected.

If your drug test is positive, you will need to provide another saliva sample for a second test. If your second test result is also positive, the test samples will be analysed further at a laboratory.

The saliva test detects the active ingredient in the drug and depends on factors such as the:

  • type of drug taken
  • quantity and quality of drug
  • frequency of drug use
  • period of time since taking the drug.

Penalties for drug driving

There is zero tolerance for driving under the influence of illegal drugs.

Driving with a relevant drug present

Driving with a relevant drug present is identified via saliva analysis.

If you test positive for drugs, your licence will be suspended for 24-hours.

If you are then charged with driving with a relevant drug present and you have no pending drug driving charges, your driver licence will remain valid until the charge is dealt with by a court, is withdrawn or otherwise discontinued.

However, if you are charged with driving with a relevant drug present and have pending drug driving charges, your licence will be suspended until your court date.

When dealing with your charge of driving with a relevant drug present, a magistrate may:

  • disqualify you from driving for between 1 to 9 months
  • fine you up to $1,649
  • impose a term of imprisonment for 3 months.

Driving under the influence of liquor or a drug

If a police officer reasonably suspects that your driving ability has been impaired by any drug you may be required to provide a specimen of blood for analysis. If you fail to provide a specimen as required, or a drug is detected in your blood, you will be charged with driving under the influence of liquor or a drug.

If you are charged with driving under the influence of liquor or a drug your driver licence will be immediately suspended until the charge is dealt with:

  • by a court
  • is withdrawn or otherwise discontinued
  • or you are issued with a court order permitting you to drive until your court hearing.  

When dealing with your charge of driving under the influence of liquor or a drug, a magistrate may:

  • disqualify you from driving for up to 6 months
  • fine you up to $3,298
  • impose a term of imprisonment for 9 months.

If you are charged with a repeat drug driving offence (you have been previously convicted of a drug driving charge in the last 5 years) you may:

  • have your licence disqualified for up to 2 years
  • be fined up to $7,068
  • be imprisoned for a period of time determined by the court.

If you fail to provide a specimen of saliva for testing, you may be fined up to $4,712 or sentenced to 6 months imprisonment. You may also be liable for the same penalties as if you were charged with the offence of driving under the influence of drugs.

Prescription and other drugs

You should never drive:

  • after taking prescription or over-the-counter medications that can affect your driving
  • after taking illegal drugs.

The effects of drugs on driving vary depending on the type of drug consumed. Legal and illegal drugs can impact on your brain and body, effecting your reaction times, judgement, perception, attention and motor skills, all of which are necessary to drive safely.

If you are unsure how drugs may affect your driving, you may consider asking someone for a lift, catch public transport or a taxi for a period after starting a new drug treatment. This will allow you to monitor the effects and adjust your dosage in consultation with your doctor if needed.

You should regularly consult your doctor or pharmacist to discuss:

  • any adverse effects you may be experiencing when taking medications
  • any changes to the dosage or new medications you may be taking
  • warning labels or potential effects of any medication you are taking on your ability to drive safely (as well as safety associated with other common activities)
  • combined or cumulative effects of any other medications you are taking at the same time (e.g. you may be fine to drive when taking one medication or another, but not when you take both)
  • effects of alcohol when taking medications
  • how to use and store your medication
  • what to do if you miss a dose of your medication
  • when it is appropriate to stop taking your medication.

Central nervous system stimulants

Stimulant-type drugs speed up your brain and body and are known as ‘uppers’. Stimulants can include:

  • amphetamines—some amphetamines are legally prescribed by doctors to treat conditions such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and narcolepsy
  • cold and flu medication and decongestants that contain pseudoephedrine
  • illegal drugs—such as amphetamines, cocaine, ecstasy and speed
  • slimming pills.

Central nervous system depressants

Also known as 'downers,’ depressant drugs slow down your brain and body. They include:

  • allergy medications
  • antidepressants
  • antihistamines
  • barbiturates
  • benzodiazepines
  • cough mixture
  • pain killers that contain codeine
  • sedatives and tranquillisers.

Narcotic analgesics

Narcotic analgesics are used to relieve pain and include:

  • alcohol
  • antihypertensives (beta blockers)
  • high dose corticosteroids
  • illegal drugs (for example, cannabis, hallucinogens including LSD and mushrooms, hashish, hashish oil, heroin and marijuana)
  • inhalants
  • interferon
  • methadone
  • opiates (for example, codeine, morphine and oxycodone)
  • pethidine
  • solvents (for example, sniffing aerosols, glue and paints)
  • some herbal medicines (e.g. passionflower and valerian).

Drug abuse help and treatment

For confidential help and information there are several drug abuse help and support options available to you.

Last updated
11 January 2016

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