Prescription painkillers linked to car crashes, injuries

On behalf of Romanucci & Blandin, LLC posted in Brain Injury on Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Some painkillers are making some users’ lives worse rather than better, new research shows.

The Chicago Tribune reports that a recent study shows that people who are taking the powerful drugs known as opioids are at greater risk of being injured in a car accident  while they are driving.

Increasing rates of opioid prescriptions have made the drugs more available, too, to people without prescriptions; people taking painkillers such as oxycodone or codeine for recreational purposes or because they have developed an addiction to them.

The researcher who led the study said that even low doses of opioids can have a dramatic impact on a person’s ability to drive safely and to avoid being injured in a car crash.

She said people taking opioids have trouble staying alert due to the sedative effects of the drugs.

The Toronto study compared 5,300 people taken to an ER after a motor vehicle accident and who had consumed at least one opioid. That group was compared to a similarly sized group that had also taken at least one opioid but had not been in a crash.

Researchers found that there was no significant difference in numbers of traffic accident injuries among people taking low doses of opioids and people taking high dosages.

But when researchers focused on just the drivers, they found some very real differences: compared to people on low doses, those on moderate doses were 29 percent more likely to be hurt in an accident. Those taking high-dose opioids were 42 percent more likely to be injured than those on low-dose opioids.

Especially at risk: those who had just begun taking opioids and those who had just had their dosages upped.

Obviously, anyone taking these drugs should discuss the impact on alertness and other reactions with their physicians.

For those injured in car accidents caused by someone who should not have been driving due to impairment by prescription drugs, a discussion with an experienced attorney of rights, evidence and legal options can help them make informed decisions about getting full, fair compensation for damages.

Source: Chicago Tribune, “Opioid painkillers tied to driving injuries,” Jan. 15, 2013