In recent years, the dangers of prescription opioids have gained significant public attention. The public has now recognized the potential for severe opioid addiction and the dire health outcomes it portends. What has gained less attention is the link between opioid use and motor vehicle accidents. Research has shown that people who take prescription opioids are more than twice as likely to be involved in a car accident than people who don’t. As opioid use climbed from the 1990s and early 2010s, so did the number of fatalities among drivers who used prescription opioids. Until recently, however, little was known about the link between prescription opioid use and non-fatal motor vehicle accidents.
A recent study from researchers at Yale University sought to remedy this gap in knowledge. In a study of non-fatal accidents from 2014-2018, the researchers found that car accidents involving opioids have significantly decreased. The researchers started with de-identified data from roughly 255 million people with health insurance from all 50 U.S. states and Washington, D.C. From there, they looked at over 142,000 emergency room visits resulting from motor vehicle accidents. Then, they determined how many injured drivers had an active opioid prescription at the time of the accident. Each year, the number of drivers with opioid prescriptions dropped. By the end of the study, so did the number of accidents.
The study’s authors credit this change to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)’s 2016 guidelines around the prescription of opioids. That year, the CDC provided guidance for doctors on whether to prescribe or continue prescribing opioids, along with the length and dosage of prescriptions. Additionally, the CDC offered strategies for assessing the risks of opioid abuse and the harm it can inflict on patients and their families. After the CDC published its guidelines, non-fatal accidents involving opioids decreased by 28%. According to an author of the study, this data suggests that more cautious opioid prescription practices have reduced the occurrence of motor vehicle accidents. The study’s lead author further credits lawmakers at the federal and state levels who have tried to address the opioid crisis. They praised measures including drug take-back programs, electronic databases that monitor the number of opioid prescriptions within a state, and further restrictions on opioid prescriptions.
Even though opioid-related accidents are decreasing, the risk has not completely disappeared. These accidents can be just as severe as other crashes that result from driving under the influence (DUI). In these circumstances, an experienced personal injury attorney can help gather evidence, interview witnesses, and develop a legal strategy to show that a person’s substance use caused a victim’s injuries.
Have You Been Injured in a Virginia Opioid-Related Car Accident?
If you or a loved one has been hurt in a car accident involving opioids or other drugs, contact the Schupak Law Firm to discuss your case. Our attorneys possess years of experience helping victims of motor vehicle accidents recover compensation for their injuries. Through our skilled representation, we handle car and other motor vehicle accidents along with medical malpractice, slip and fall accidents, nursing home and elder abuse, wrongful death, and premises liability cases. Call our office today at 240-833-3914 for a free initial consultation.