An increasing number of fatal car crashes in the US are the result of one of the drivers being on a prescription opioid.
Researchers examined data from more than 18,000 crashes between 1993 and 2016. Drivers who tested positive for prescription opioids in their bloodstream were more than twice as likely to have initiated the crashes compared to drivers who were not on the medications, according to results published in JAMA Network Open. And this was independent of whether the drivers had been drinking or not.
In the accidents, 55% of the errors among drivers who tested positive for opioids was failure to stay in their lane.
Guohua Li, MD, DrPH, one of the study’s authors, told HealthDay that the impact of prescription opioids on driving is equivalent to having a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.05%. In most states, a BAC of 0.08% is considered driving under the influence.
The researchers say that when doctors discuss the risks of prescription opioids with their patients, they should also mention the potential effects the drugs can have on driving.