DOI: 10.1111/adb.13359 ISSN: 1355-6215

A systematic review of oculomotor deficits associated with acute and chronic cannabis use

Brooke Manning, Luke A. Downey, Andrea Narayan, Amie C. Hayley
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Pharmacology
  • Medicine (miscellaneous)


Driving is a critical everyday task necessitating the rapid and seamless integration of dynamic visually derived information to guide neurobehaviour. Biological markers are frequently employed to detect Δ9‐tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) consumption among drivers during roadside tests, despite not necessarily indicating impairment. Characterising THC‐specific alterations to oculomotor behaviour may offer a more sensitive measure for indexing drug‐related impairment, necessitating discrimination between acute THC effects, chronic use and potential tolerance effects. The present review aims to synthesise current evidence on the acute and chronic effects of THC on driving‐relevant oculomotor behaviour. The review was prospectively registered (10.17605/OSF.IO/A4H9W), and Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta‐Analyses (PRISMA) guidelines informed reporting standards. Overall, 20 included articles comprising 12 experimental acute dosing trials, 5 cross‐sectional chronic use studies and 3 roadside epidemiological studies examined the effects of cannabis/THC on oculomotor parameters including saccadic activity gaze behaviour, nystagmus, smooth pursuit and eyelid/blink characteristics. Acute THC consumption selectively impacts oculomotor control, notably increasing saccadic latency and inaccuracy and impairing inhibitory control. Chronic cannabis users, especially those with early age of use onset, display enduring oculomotor deficits that affect visual scanning efficiency. The presence of eyelid tremors appears to be a reliable indicator of cannabis consumption while remaining distinct from direct impairment associated with visual attention and motor control. Cannabis selectively influences oculomotor activity relevant to driving, highlighting the role of cannabinoid systems in these processes. Defining cannabis/THC‐specific changes in oculomotor control may enhance the precision of roadside impairment assessments and vehicle safety systems to detect drug‐related impairment and assess driving fitness.

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