Effects of Opioid Use on Highway Safety

The warning 'don't use while driving' is a very famous one, but the threat has never been as real as it is now. The exposure to opioids is becoming more and more threatening - for everyone. Not only is the health of the individual that uses them while driving at risk, but also those on the road around them.

The medical description of opioids is 'drugs that work on opioid receptors available in the brain to produce a morphine-like effect.' Generally they are used as pain relievers in hospitals, especially for patients who have just undergone major surgery, but the side effects can be quite devastating.

Dangerous in any Form

Opioids, as a class of drugs, also include illicit street drugs like heroin and fentanyl. They can produce euphoric effects and drastically slow motor function and cotrol when used. For this reason, they are available by prescription alone. However, they are finding their way onto the streets and causing problems in communities all over the United States.

Drugs like hydrocodone, morphine, and oxycodone are opioids that are medically prescribed to treat pain. These powerful drugs cause significant impairment and therefore, it's not a problem that should be taken lightly. More specifically, opioids should never be used by anyone who is about to drive.

Research shows that the number of motorists who had an accident after using opioids has increased seven-fold in the past two decades. There is also a related increase in the number of drivers who tested positive and were DUI/DWI. This poses a significant chance that more people would die in opioid-related accidental crashes than in non-opioid associated car crashes.

Research carried out by Columbia University shows that the effect of prescription drugs includes drowsiness, slowed reaction times, and impaired thinking. These symptoms are able to interfere with driving skills and play a vital role in car crashes.

Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) are also concerned about the rising trend of opioid abuse and find that there is an increase in the rate of opioid use and overdose, and one that is cited by Columbia University researchers: from 1991 to to 2014 there has been a nearly 400% increase in prescriptions given out.

With all these facts clearly stated, the inference can be drawn that there is an opioid crisis that needs a great deal of attention. Fatal accidents caused by opioid use are a major concern.

There are even incidents of drivers who have been recorded combining opioids with alcohol and, in those cases, there is a 21-fold increase in the risk of a fatal crash occurring. Therefore it’s not so surprising to find that opioid intoxication is a major cause of road accidents.

Risk of Death

The risk of death posed by opioid use is greater than that posed by accidents (preventable injuries were formerly in third place as a cause of death America). Deaths caused by drowning, falling, choking, and even pedestrian accidents combined are less likely than death from opioid abuse. Research by the CDC shows that about 190 Americans die from the overuse of opioids every day.

The number is alarming and needs urgent attention. So, while Americans are more concerned about death resulting from natural disasters, chronic ailment, and terminal diseases, preventable problems like the opioid crisis need more attention.

There needs to be greater awareness of the dangers involved in using opioids. Also, there should be more stringent measures taken to ensure that people have limited access to these drugs. Hospitals need to ensure they have robust checks and balances that prevent patients from getting too many pills or overdosing on the pain meds they were prescribed post-surgery.

Change Can’t Come Soon Enough

In nearly every way the American healthcare model needs to change. From prevention of disease, to treating a patient following surgery, the medically integrated approach is a much safer, more holistic way of approaching healing.

At Advanced Medical Integration we’re dedicated to challenging the status quo of healthcare. We believe that the power of healing lies within the individual.

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