The opioid epidemic has “spilled over to our national highway system with deadly consequences,” according to a Columbia University researcher, with drivers of fatal two-car accidents twice as likely to test positive for prescription opioids than those in two-car wrecks deemed not at fault.
The study, published in JAMA Network Open, was taken on by Dr. Gouhua Li, founding director of the Center for Injury Epidemiology and Prevention at the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University, and colleagues, in order to investigate the impact of opioids on fatal car crashes.
Researchers analyzed data from 18,321 fatal two-car crashes obtained from the Fatality Analysis Reporting System, compiled and maintained by the National Center for Statistics and Analysis at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The most common cause of those accidents, which occurred in 7,535 of those instances, was “failure to keep in lane.”
A total of 918 drivers found at fault in the accident tested positive for prescription opioids compared to 549 at fault who did not have opioids in their system, representing a two percent increase from 1993 to 2016.
The opioids most often found in their blood system was hydrocodone (32 percent) followed by morphine (27 percent), oxycodone (19 percent), and methadone (14 percent).
The study sheds light on the many ways opioids prove fatal. Overdoses of these potent painkillers killed more than 47,000 Americans in 2017, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Opioid overdoses have jumped a startling 30 percent from July 2016 to September 2017.
National Institute on Drug Abuse