Research Claims Drivers in Illinois and Across the Continent are More Likely to be Hurt in a Crash While Taking High Doses of Opioid Painkillers

A Canadian study recently published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine reportedly found that individuals who are prescribed high doses of opioid painkillers such as codeine and oxycodone are more likely to be hurt behind the wheel of a vehicle than people who are taking lower doses of the drugs. According to researchers from Toronto’s Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences, even low doses of prescription painkillers can have a dramatic impact on a driver’s risk of being harmed in a traffic wreck. Lead researcher Tara Gomes said previous studies found that individuals who are taking opioid drugs tend to have difficulty remaining alert while driving. Gomes said her research was designed to focus on the wider public health issues related to traffic safety for any individual with opioid painkillers in their system.

As part of the study, researchers reportedly examined data regarding 5,300 Canadians who were taking an opioid painkiller and treated in an Ontario emergency room following a traffic accident. The study authors then determined the dose of painkiller each crash victim was taking using Ontario’s prescription drug database. Researchers purportedly found that there was no difference in the overall number of traffic injuries reported across the spectrum of painkiller dosage. When researchers examined injured drivers, however, they noted that motorists who were taking high doses of opioid painkillers were 42 percent more likely to be hurt in a collision than drivers who were on low doses. In addition, motorists who were prescribed moderate doses of the drugs were allegedly 29 percent more likely to be hurt.

Gomes stated that the time frame immediately following an increase in dosage appears to be more dangerous for drivers than the period after a motorist receives an initial prescription. She said this may be because drivers who are already taking painkillers are less likely to take the time to become accustomed to a new dosage than those new to the drugs. Although Gomes reportedly believes the effect that high doses of opioid drugs can have on traffic safety should be weighed by physicians, she said the study design made it impossible for researchers to determine whether motorists were using the painkillers according to doctor or pharmacist instructions.

An independent Pain Expert at Toronto Western Hospital, Dr. Angela Mailis-Gagnon, cautioned that the study design limited the usefulness of the research. Because the study authors used an administrative database to determine each dosage of painkiller prescribed to an injured patient, it is impossible to know whether accident victims were taking fast or slow-release opioids or if they were on any additional medications that could affect their coordination and attention. Mailis-Gagnon said although opioids clearly have an effect on driving abilities, patients who truly need the painkillers should continue taking them despite the results of the study.

Unfortunately, getting behind the wheel with certain prescription medications in your system can pose a safety hazard to everyone on the roadway. Although this particular research study focused on the injury risks apparent to drugged drivers, anyone who was involved in a crash that was caused by a motorist who was under the influence of prescription drugs may suffer catastrophic injuries or untimely death. If you were hurt in an accident with an impaired driver, you may be entitled to receive financial compensation for your medical costs, lost wages and benefits, pain and suffering, any resulting disability, and other damages. If a close family member was killed in a traffic wreck with a drugged driver, you may also be eligible to file a wrongful death claim. A skilled Chicago car accident lawyer can help.

If you were hurt or lost a loved one in a traffic crash that was caused by an impaired driver, you should contact the dedicated lawyers at Abels & Annes, P.C. Our hardworking Chicago Metro car accident attorneys are available every day of the week to answer your questions and help you file your personal injury or wrongful death claim. Our knowledgeable lawyers have years of experience advocating on behalf of injured clients throughout the Chicago Metro. To speak with a capable personal injury attorney today, do not hesitate to give Abels & Annes, P.C. a call at (312) 475-9596.

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Measure to Allow Illegal Immigrants to Obtain Temporary Driver’s Licenses in Illinois Poised to Become Law, Chicago Car Accident Lawyers Blog, January 17, 2013
Additional Resources:

Opioid painkillers tied to driving injuries, by Genevra Pittman, Chicago Tribune

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