The Opioid Crisis Endangers Drivers
The misuse of opioids has gained considerable attention in recent years. We’re in the midst of an opioid epidemic. According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse, more than 130 people in the U.S. die each day from overdosing on opioids. Opioids are a class of drugs that aid in pain relief. Prescription opioids block pain signals the brain sends to the body and may be used to treat moderate to severe pain.
Opioids can also have relaxing effects on some patients, making them feel at ease and happy. These feelings can be addictive and often, people do become severely addicted to their medication. When they drive with these medications in their system, those who are prescribed opioids pose a threat to themselves and other drivers.
When did the opioid crisis begin?
The opioid epidemic can be traced to the 1990s when pharmaceutical companies pushing these painkillers insisted they were not addictive. As more and more doctors prescribed opioids and opioid-combination medications for pain relief, deaths involving opioids began to rise. A noticeable uptick occurred in 1991.
As pharmaceutical companies and medical societies peddled the myth that the risk of opioid addiction was nearly non-existent, doctors began prescribing them for patients with non-cancer related pain. Toward the end of the decade, 86% of patients on opioids were using them for reasons other than cancer. Diversion, or the transfer of medication from the prescribed individual to another person, began to increase in communities where opioids were prescribed liberally and easy to obtain.
Common Types of Opioids
Opioids are a type of narcotic that dull the senses. In medicine, they primarily numb the sensation of pain. Some of the most commonly abused drugs in this category include:
People who do not follow doctors’ orders when taking prescription opioids place their lives in danger. These medications affect a person’s ability to drive safely and increase their risk of fatal auto accidents.
How Opioids Increase Fatal Crash Risks
Researchers at Columbia University found that drivers who are prescribed opioid medications are twice as likely to be involved in fatal accidents involving two cars as are drivers who do not have prescriptions for opioids. They evaluated NHTSA crash data focused on car crashes that resulted in at least one death within a month of the collision. This data was based on factors where a driver’s unsafe actions caused the crash. Their findings can be found here.
Notable findings contained in the study include:
- Researchers found that more than half of all deceased motorists (nearly 55%) with positive toxicology results for prescription opioids crashed due to departing from their lane.
- More drivers who caused crashes had positive toxicology results for prescription opioids, alcohol, or both on the whole than drivers who did not cause crashes.
The side effects of prescription medications like pain relievers have tangible effects on drivers and may make it more likely for drivers to cause a crash due to the fact that:
- Opioids can make drivers drowsy, inducing sleep behind the wheel
- Opioids can induce dizziness, making it difficult for a driver to stay in his or her lane
- Opioids can delay reaction time, reduce attention, and slow the ability to process information, which can extend the response time needed to avoid a crash
Medications for prescription opioids almost always have warnings against operating machinery, including vehicles, while taking them. Unfortunately, these labels do little to keep an opioid patient away from day-to-day activities like driving, and they fail to address the myriad of issues that contribute to the crisis, such as long-term use of opioids, doctors over-prescribing them, and patients’ addiction.
Orlando’s Accident Lawyers Help You Recover from an Opioid-Induced Crash
If you suffered a car crash injury because another driver was experiencing opioid side effects, we can help. Our team of accident lawyers deeply investigate each and every crash to uncover the truth and help our clients recover what they deserve in terms of damages. We aim to get you every penny you deserve by law to cover your medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering after a car crash in Orlando.
Our team of accident lawyers has more than 100 years of combined experience pursuing vehicle accident claims. Members of our firm have been repeatedly selected by Super Lawyers Magazine as Super Lawyers and participate in a number of legal organizations, including the Central Florida Trial Lawyers Association. You can trust our firm to focus on your needs and guide you to a better state.
Call our office or complete our contact form to be in touch with a knowledgeable attorney at any time of day or night.