Approximately one in five U.S. adults have, or know someone who has, driven while impaired by prescription medications, with 18% noting opioid use, or depressants (18%) or stimulants (17%) — or those mixed with other substances like alcohol or marijuana (22%), according to the findings from a recent survey commissioned by Mothers Against Drunk Drivers (MADD).
The nationwide survey of 2,000 people conducted by IPSOS, a market research organization, paints an alarming picture of risky driving behavior.
For example, one in 20 surveyed admitted to personally driving within two hours of consuming prescription medications that can cause impairment. Some 6% said they used opioids while behind the wheel, another 6% used depressants, 4% used stimulants. But perhaps most concerning is that slightly more than 7% of people admitted to poly-drugged driving.
Noteworthy, 85% of respondents say they would be very uncomfortable riding in a vehicle with someone who had recently consumed a combination of drugs, including alcohol.
Other key findings from the survey point to a need for public education and awareness, as well as a better understanding on the part of drivers about legal implications of driving while under the influence of prescription medications.
Some three in four surveyed said they agree that they don’t hear much about driving under the influence of prescription medication in the news today (73%) and that additional research on the subject is needed (75%).
As for legal ramifications, only 50% view driving impaired from opioid Rx med use as a serious crime. Another 17% say it is only a minor traffic offense, 25% are unsure, and 7% think it is legal.
Drugged driving remains a serious hazard on the nation’s roadways. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration data shows that 64% of seriously and fatally injured drivers tested at five major trauma centers during the second quarter of 2020 had at least one impairing substance in their system, including opioids, marijuana, alcohol, stimulants, and antidepressants. The presence of opioids among those drivers jumped from 6.8% in the fourth quarter of 2019 to over 14% in the second and third quarters of 2020, and over 9% in the first and fourth quarters.