Comparing treatment effects of oral THC on simulated and on-the-road driving performance: testing the validity of driving simulator drug research

J.L. Veldstra*, W.M. Bosker, D. de Waard, J.G. Ramaekers, K.A. Brookhuis

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


The driving simulator provides a safe and controlled environment for testing driving behaviour efficiently. The question is whether it is sensitive to detect drug-induced effects. The primary aim of the current study was to investigate the sensitivity of the driving simulator for detecting drug effects. As a case in point, we investigated the dose-related effects of oral a dagger(9)-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), i.e. dronabinol, on simulator and on-the-road driving performance in equally demanding driving tasks. Twenty-four experienced driver participants were treated with dronabinol (MarinolA (R); 10 and 20 mg) and placebo. Dose-related effects of the drug on the ability to keep a vehicle in lane (weaving) and to follow the speed changes of a lead car (car following) were compared within subjects for on-the-road versus in-simulator driving. Additionally, the outcomes of equivalence testing to alcohol-induced effects were investigated. Treatment effects found on weaving when driving in the simulator were comparable to treatment effects found when driving on the road. The effect after 10 mg dronabinol was however less strong in the simulator than on the road and inter-individual variance seemed higher in the simulator. There was, however, a differential treatment effect of dronabinol on reactions to speed changes of a lead car (car following) when driving on the road versus when driving in the simulator. The driving simulator was proven to be sensitive for demonstrating dronabinol-induced effects particularly at higher doses. Treatment effects of dronabinol on weaving were comparable with driving on the road but inter-individual variability seemed higher in the simulator than on the road which may have potential effects on the clinical inferences made from simulator driving. Car following on the road and in the simulator were, however, not comparable.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2911-2919
Number of pages9
Issue number16
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2015


  • Driving simulator
  • Driving performance
  • Dronabinol
  • Equivalence testing
  • Predictive validity
  • THC
  • 1 MG
  • MDMA

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