Friday, February 20, 2009

Drunken driving connected to mental problems

Stockholm (IANS): Drunken driving is not just an indication of a deeply seated alcohol problem but is also very often connected to psychological disease and chronic criminal background, says a doctoral thesis presented at the Karolinska Institute (KI).

Psychologist Beata Hubicka has in collaboration with the Swedish traffic authority, Vagverket, and the police, carried out a nationwide study involving 1,200 drivers who were charged with drunken driving.

The suspect alcoholic offenders, along with a research group of 786 assuredly sober drivers, were called upon to answer a questionnaire on their alcohol consumption habits. The psychosocial and psychotic health condition of some of the drunken drivers was examined too.

"Earlier research in this area has mostly been undertaken in the US," Hubicka told IANS, after her dissertation at the KI. "However, it became essential to carry out an entirely Swedish study since we have different promille (alcohol in the blood permissible for driving) limits and different attitudes towards drunken driving compared to the US. Such variables have also to be taken into account when dealing with this problem in other countries."

The well-received study shows that "more than a half of the suspected alcohol abusers had earlier committed criminal offences. A large number among the abusers were also found to be suffering serious psychotic problems."

"Since such a large number have psychotic problems and a criminal background," says Hubicka, "one should not direct attention solely towards their alcohol problem in any preemptive efforts to resolve drunken driving".

Hubicka said: "The current limit for drunken driving of 0.2 promille (in Sweden, among the strictest globally) is based on physiological studies in which it has been observed and recorded that our capacity for reaction (reflexes) is dangerously impaired with such an alcohol level (in the blood). Since alcohol abuse is such a big risk factor (cause) for drunken criminality, the result of our study should perhaps form the basis for a reconsidered alcohol limit for driving. I would rather suggest that we follow the few countries that have established zero-tolerance."

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