Experts Say Prescription Drugs May Pose Serious Hazards for Drivers

There have been a multitude of campaigns directed at informing the American public about the dangers of drunk driving. The NHTSA, CDC, MADD, and various other national agencies have put a great deal of money and effort into education, and it is helping people all over the country recognize the problem. However, many people don’t fully understand the similar dangers that are associated with drugged driving, especially when those drugs are prescribed by your doctor. Illinois’ new medical marijuana law has started a heated debate about the hazards of driving while under the influence of drugs, but many experts say that millions of people are already impaired by perfectly legal drugs everyday.

The main problem with prescription drug abuse is that very few people recognize that they are doing anything wrong in the first place. Compared to the amount of anti-drunk driving messages we see every day, drugged driving often falls by the wayside, and this puts everyone on the road at risk. Just like alcohol, prescription drugs can have a deleterious affect on the brains ability to process and react to information, and in some cases they are every bit as dangerous. According to the director of medical toxicology at the North Shore University Health System, the mixing of pain management medications such as morphine and Valium with other drugs is particularly dangerous. “These are all central nervous system depressants…that slow down reaction time, impair your judgment, (create) issues with multitasking, with coordination and perception, primarily visual perception…all those things can be affected by drugs of this type.” (Chicago Tribune; National Institute on Drug Abuse)

Experts are quick to point out that opioid painkillers, when used alone and at the appropriate dose, can actually aid a driver by reducing their pain. However, the mixing of drugs creates a synergistic affect, turning the combination into a cocktail that intensifies both medications. “It’s…like one plus one equals three,” says a University of Chicago anesthesiology professor. “It’s a stronger effect than if you doubled the dose of the opioid.” Unfortunately, there is no real criterion for physicians and patients to follow when it comes to driving while on prescription drugs. There is a huge demographic in our country who need to operate a vehicle everyday in order to get to work, but also require painkillers and other prescription drugs in order to live a normal life. For this reason, this is a subject rarely discussed in doctors’ offices, and is something that needs to be addressed and evaluated.

Whether it is currently being addressed or not, the potential for drug impairment while driving is very real, and so are the injuries that it can cause. Our lawyers know how to navigate the often tricky landscape of drugged driving and other types of accident lawsuits. We have reached settlements for countless clients, helping them receive compensation for the harms caused to them, and if you have been a victim we may be able to help you too.

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