The aim of this study was to summarise the scientific evidence on the prevalence of psychoactive substance use and on the factors associated with their intake among truck drivers. A systematic review was performed in the databases PubMed, Scientific Electronic Library Online, Latin American and Caribbean Health Sciences, and Cochrane and 36 cross-sectional studies were identified with quantitative results about the use of psychoactive substances by truck drivers. Out of these, 28 were carried out in countries with large land areas and 23 obtained their information through self-reporting.
The most frequently studied substances were alcohol (n=25), amphetamines (n=17), marijuana (n=16) and cocaine (n=13). The prevalence of the use of these substances greatly varied: alcohol (0.1–91.0%); amphetamines (0.2–82.5%), marijuana (0.2–29.9%), cocaine (0.1–8.3%). The frequency of substance use was lower in studies that investigated the presence of these substances in biological samples than in those based on self-reported use.
In 12 studies that evaluated factors associated with the intake of psychoactive substances, the following stood out: younger age, higher income, longer trips, alcohol consumption, driving in the night shift, travelling interstate routes, long or short sleep, fewer hours of rest, little experience of the driver, connection with small and medium sized companies, income below levels determined by labour agreements, productivity-based earnings and prior involvement in accidents.
The frequency of psychoactive substance use by truck drivers seems to be high, although that greatly varies according to the type of substance and the method of collecting the information. The use of these substances was mainly associated with indicators of poor working conditions.