New research that examines recent trends for auto accident in Maryland suggests that the number of fatal injuries that resulted from the use of opioid drugs has leveled out, following years of increases for crashes involving the powerful and addictive pain medications.
In a study published last month in the journal Accident Analysis and Prevention, researchers from Johns Hopkins’s Bloomberg School of Public Health report that fatal injuries sustained in accidents where drivers tested positive for opioids increased two percent over the last 10 years in the state of Maryland, but the opioid-involved accidents may have accounted for 10% of all driver deaths during that time.
Researchers reviewed crash fatality data recorded in Maryland from 2006 through 2017. The initial findings did not differentiate whether the drivers were believed to have used opioids before getting behind the wheel, or were treated with opioids on the scene by emergency medical services personnel.
This new study looked at data on drivers with an opioid-positive toxicology report, which included both those found dead on the scene and those who died later after receiving medical treatment, including opioids for pain. This analysis determined the number of opioid-involved fatal crashed increased from 8.3% of all crashes in 2006 to 14.1% in 2017.
Johns Hopkins’ team performed a second analysis that only counted driver deaths at the scene with a positive opioid toxicology report. Data from this analysis revealed only a two percent increase when comparing 2006 fatalities to 2017 records.
According to the researchers, it is common practice for Emergency Medical Services (EMS) to use opioids at the scene of the accident, or during transportation to the hospital on injured drivers and passengers. This would ultimately result in a positive opioid toxicology report, increasing the figures.
Although the United States is currently dealing with an opioid epidemic, the number of Maryland drivers under the influence of the drug at the time of the crash does not appear to be increasing as suspected, according to the researchers.
Drug overdoses continue to skyrocket nationwide. A U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report published late last year indicated opioids accounted for nearly 70% of all drug overdose deaths.