Driving on drugs is never worth the risk

It's illegal in Scotland, and immediate roadside testing can be carried out at any time.

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  • 12-month driving ban

  • Points on your licence

  • Up to six months in prison

  • Up to £5,000 fine

Drug driving related content

Drugs and driving don’t mix

Drugs can slow down your responses, making it more likely you’ll have a collision on the road. This can lead to severe injuries and even death.

The effects of drug driving can seriously ruin lives. Not just yours, but other road users and their families too.

What you need to know

  • It’s a criminal offence to drive while impaired by drugs. This can include prescription and over-the-counter drugs that you’re not meant to use while driving
  • The penalties are tough – you could lose your licence, your car and even your job
  • Drugs do differ – but many affect awareness, judgement and reaction times
  • A drug wipe test can be carried out at the side of the road and can detect drugs in your system, even when you show no obvious signs of impairment

The law in Scotland

It’s illegal to take drugs and drive in Scotland – and the punishments are severe

The law also includes prescription and over-the-counter drugs that you’re not meant to use whilst driving

The penalties for driving while on these drugs are exactly the same as having illegal substances in your system

Tough penalties

If you’re caught and convicted of drug driving, here’s what you can expect to face as a minimum:

  • 12-month driving ban

  • 3 to 11 points on your licence

  • Up to 6 months in prison

  • Up to £5,000 fine

  • An offence that stays on your licence for 11 years

  • Causing death carries a maximum 14 year jail sentence

  • You could lose your car and even your job

The effects can last a lifetime

A drug driving conviction can change your life for years to come.

You could:

  • Lose your job, or business, if you can’t drive
  • Struggle to get another job because of your criminal conviction
  • Face a significant increase in your vehicle insurance
  • Have difficulty travelling abroad – especially to the USA

How you can be caught

It’s easier than you think to get caught drug driving.

You could be:

  • Stopped by the police for a routine check
  • Stopped for another traffic offence – like not wearing a seatbelt or a faulty light
  • Involved in a crash, even one which is not your fault
  • Reported by someone who suspects you’ve been taking drugs

What happens when you get stopped?


If an officer reasonably suspects that you have taken or are under the influence of drugs whilst driving you may be arrested or required to carry out a roadside drug wipe test.


You may also be required to carry out a preliminary impairment test.


If the drug wipe is positive or the preliminary test indicates drugs in your system, it is likely you will be arrested and taken to a police station.


At the station you will be required to provide a blood or urine sample which will be sent for testing. The result of this test will be used to make a decision about any prosecution.

How drugs can affect your driving

  • Depending on what’s been taken, drugs have different effects on driving ability
  • Many impair awareness, judgement and reaction times
  • Drugs can still be detected in your system quite a few days after they’ve been taken
  • Many prescription drugs can also make you drowsy and affect vision, coordination and concentration

For more information on the effects of specific drugs, read the content on Drug Driving | Release and Changes to drug driving law – GOV.UK

Prescription and over-the-counter drugs

It’s illegal to drive using any medicines that affect your driving abilities. Here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Some medicines, like hay fever remedies, can cause drowsiness and impairment
  • The penalties for driving while impaired by prescribed drugs can be just as severe as illegal ones
  • It can be an offence to drive if you’re over the stated limits of certain drugs – whether they’re prescribed or over-the-counter
  • Always check the information leaflet, or ask the pharmacist for any driving restrictions

There are no issues if:

  • You’ve been prescribed the drug, and
  • It’s taken as prescribed, and
  • It doesn’t affect your driving

Reporting a drug driver can stop accidents

If you think someone’s driving after taking drugs, you can let the Police know. This could stop someone being seriously injured, or even killed.

Just call the Police on 101 (or 999 if urgent) or Crimestoppers on 0800 555111.

Then you’ll have to give:

  • The car registration number
  • A description of the vehicle and driver
  • The location, i.e. where the driver is at that moment, or is potentially going
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