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Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Pot and Opioids Rival Alcohol in Fatal Car Crashes

drug-impaired drivingIf you think driving on opioids or after smoking pot is no big deal, think again. Driving while under the influence of these drugs can be almost as deadly as drinking and driving, according to a new report. 

In fact, the latest figures from the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) show that 44 percent of drivers killed in crashes tested positive for drugs in 2016 – with 38 percent having marijuana in their system, 16 percent opioids and 4 percent both.

"Too many people operate under the false belief that marijuana or opioids don't impair their ability to drive, or even that these drugs make them safer drivers," Jonathan Adkins, GHSA executive director, said in an association news release.

"Busting this myth requires states to expand their impaired driving campaigns to include marijuana and opioids along with alcohol, to show drivers that impairment is impairment, regardless of substance," he added.

This is not without challenges, however. For one, drivers need to be tested for a large number of drugs and right now there’s no nationally accepted way of testing drivers for drugs. Also, different drugs have different effects on individual drivers depending on how they act in the brain. For example, marijuana can impair judgment of time and distance, decrease coordination, poor reaction time and increase lane weaving, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). And mixing pot with alcohol can cause even more impairment. 

This brings us to yet another challenge: Many drivers mix drugs and alcohol. In 2016, 49 percent who tested positive for alcohol also tested positive for drugs, according to the news release.

"Alcohol-impaired driving and drug-impaired driving can no longer be treated as separate issues,” Ralph Blackman, president and CEO of Responsibility.org., a foundation that promotes responsible use of alcohol, told HealthDay. “To curb impaired driving, we have to think about the combination of substances drivers are often putting into their systems at the same time."

So what’s the solution? For now, the Governors Highway Safety Association and Responsibility.org have teamed up to train nearly 1,000 police officers to recognize and deter drugged drivers.

Getting Help for Drug or Alcohol Abuse
The best way to keep yourself and others safe on the road is to get help if you have a problem with alcohol or drugs. The Haven at Pismo provides a continuum of care that includes medical detox, residential programs for men and women, partial hospitalization, and outpatient programs. If you or a loved one is showing signs of a substance use disorder, call today: 805-202-3440.