• According to statistics collected by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 2.5 million Americans wound up in the emergency room as a result of a car accident in 2012
• While there are many factors that make driving risky, including the use of cell phones, texting, drunk driving, and not using a seat belt, there’s also the issue of prescription drug side effects
• A CDC report reveals that between 1993 and 2010, the number of drivers involved in fatal car crashes found to have three or more medications in their system nearly doubled, increasing from 11.5 to 21.5 percent
• Prescription drugs were involved in fatal car crashes at three times the rate of marijuana
Gone are the days when drunk drivers were our only concern—alcohol is but one of many drugs that can make you dangerous behind the wheel. And now many people, especially seniors, are on multiple prescription drugs (polypharmacy), which multiplies their impairment.
When you picture someone under the influence of drugs in your mind, you probably don’t envision a grey-haired grandmother or grandfather, a middle-aged professional, or a soon-to-be retiree.
But the face of drug addiction in the United States has changed dramatically over the past few decades, and a significant number of older adults are now struggling with both illicit and prescription drug abuse.
According to statistics from the Kaiser Health Foundation,6 seniors aged 65 and older fill, on average, 27 prescriptions per year, and National Institutes of Health7 (NIH) statistics show that the number of people in their 50s who are abusing illicit drugs more than doubled from 2002 to 2010, going from 2.7 to 5.8 percent. Among those 65 and older, 414,000 used illicit drugs in 2010.
The most commonly abused prescription medications among seniors include:
• Opioids (painkillers such as morphine, codeine, oxycodone, hydrocodone, and fentanyl)
• Depressants (including Valium, Xanax, Ambien, and Sonata, prescribed for anxiety and sleep disorders)
• Stimulants (such as Ritalin, Concerta, and Adderall)
Many people are still under the illusion that prescription drugs are somehow safer than street drugs, but it’s important to realize that prescription medications like hydrocodone and oxycodone are opioids, very similar to heroin.
If you take psychoactive medications, or drugs that impair judgment and reaction time either by itself or in combination with other drugs, please exercise good judgment and avoid getting behind the wheel.
If you need legal representation as a result of being involved in a collision with an impaired driver, call the Law Office of Laurie D. Mitchell. 352-371-9828
*Excerpted from Dr. Mercola Library of Publications