How Are So Many Drivers Getting Addicted To Narcotics?

dreamstime_xl_51353731-300x200Many ER doctors and surgeons prescribe narcotics to their patients since many are in dire pain after a car accident or surgery. Opioids provide quick relief, so what harm can a script for some OxyContin possibly do? Plenty, according to a new study.

Opiate addiction in patients of “high-intensity prescribers” was 30 percent more likely than in patients who saw “low-intensity prescribers.” The study shows that doctors who were overly generous with the prescription pad may be causing addiction to high potency medications.

Texas has a serious addiction problem. So does the rest of the country. Almost 50,000 Americans died from drug overdoses in 2014 according to the CDC. Back in 2003, Rush Limbaugh famously admitted he was addicted to OxyContin. Addiction to opiods is a raging epidemic in the U.S.

What does this have to do with driving? Personal injury lawyers are seeing more and more crashes caused by drivers intoxicated on these prescription drugs. A man who crashed into our client’s car said he had taken 12 pills and had no idea how the collision happened.

Medications like Vicodin can impair a driver just as much as illegal drugs or alcohol. But shockingly there is no law that effectively stops the use of prescription medications while driving.

A person who might never break the law and would not consider driving drunk may not think twice about climbing behind the wheel after popping legally prescribed pills. Just like alcohol, an impaired person may not be aware of the dangerous effects the drug has on his awareness, attention, cognition, reaction and judgment. Or care.

A Prescription for an Auto Accident

Opiates like hydrocodone and oxycodone cause a driver to experience sedation, dizziness, delirium, muscle spasms, nausea and vomiting. These are the same symptoms caused by heroin, also an opioid drug.

The thought of a heroin user behind the wheel is frightening. So how does this loophole exist?

The opioid prescription insert warning to be careful while operating heavy machinery is useless — if any one even reads it. The reality is that residents of our huge Dallas-Fort Worth area have to drive to get anywhere.

Liability for Drug Impaired Driving

It is difficult for our DA’s to prosecute people for driving while impaired by prescription drugs. Why?

Texas Penal Code 49.01(2) vaguely defines “intoxicated” as “not having the normal use of mental or physical faculties” because of the ingestion of a controlled substance. A breathalyzer measures the percentage of blood alcohol concentration and establishes .08 percent BAC as the presumed legal limit, but there is no similar definitive test for what level of a drug affects a person’s ability to drive. Criminal liability can be difficult to prove.

However, civil liability for personal injuries caused in a collision is not. A person is liable for causing a crash even if he did not realize he was not supposed to drive or was not in the condition to do so safely.  The same holds true for both prescription and over the counter medications and for other physical risks, such as being too tired or ill to drive.

Our state legislature that is meeting in Austin should outlaw driving while drugged.  Our lives depend on it.

 

 

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