Study to examine kava's link to drink-driving
A unique study to examine the effects of kava on driving ability, is being comissioned by New Zealand's Health Research Council.
A study to examine the effects of kava on driving ability, is being commissioned by New Zealand's Health Research Council.
The study, which is the first of its kind, will use cognitive and driving simulation tests to access driver fitness immediately after consuming significant amounts of kava.
Indira Moala has more.
Fijian researcher, Dr Apo Aporosa has received the 2015 Pacific postdoctoral fellowship to fund the two year study, which will begin in March next year.
As a former police officer and regular kava consumer himself, he says he's aware that there are road safety dangers for drivers who have consumed a lot of kava.
APO APOROSA: I've also done roadside sobriety tests on kava drinkers at 2 and 3am in the morning. Tests that would include things like opening your hand and dropping a pen and then catching it again with the same hand. And they seem to be passing fine. But there are a lot of comments by people who do drink kava and drive who have made aside, such as you know "I shouldn't have driven last night." So we're going to run the process, see what happens at the end. And if it comes out negative we definitely want to do something because we don't want to be endangering other road users and obviously not ourselves and our family.
Mr Aporosa says the known effects from high consumption of Kava are similar to those produced by sedative drugs.
APO APOROSA: Kava acts on the body in a similar way to Benzodiazepine drugs, so they're anti-anxiety type medications so you feel a lot more calm. You can feel a little bit sleepy. Especially some varieties of kava can make you feel sleepy.
My uncle Keith Waldron Moala has been attending kava drink ups almost every week for the last 38 years.
He says being drunk on kava definitely impairs your ability to drive safely.
WALDRON MOALA: When I drive and I'm really drunk with kava it's very risky because I can be sleepy while driving and I remember a few occasions where I almost had an accident. Yeah, I think I'd be lying if I said it doesn't affect. But I think every kava drinker knows this - it will affect you. Because people tend to be sleepy when they drink a lot of kava. And I have seen a lot of people - you even have to help people to walk to their vehicle when they're really drinking kava.
Apo Aporosa says it is estimated there are more than 20,000 kava users on an average Friday or Saturday night in New Zealand and most of those users are consuming kava at volumes 32 times greater than pharmacologically recommended doses, with many then driving home.
Mr Aporosa says there is currently no technology that can measure how much kava has been consumed by a person.
APO APOROSA: Kava doesn't metabolize on the breath like alcohol so you know, you drive in to a checkpoint, you blow into the bag, there's nothing at this stage that can actually measure it. But right at this stage, I think until science can catch up, I think it comes down to a conscience thing.
Apo Aporosa says he hopes to raise awareness of the dangers and encourage kava drinkers to be more considerate of their safety and others on the road.
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