DALLAS, Texas. According to USA Today, the number of people killed while driving while also under the influence of prescription opioids has increased. While we have heard quite a bit about how overdoses from the opioid epidemic have gone up in recent years, it is important to consider the impact the opioid epidemic has had on car and truck accident deaths and injuries. Drivers may think that they can keep driving while still taking these medications, but opioid medications can have a serious impact on a person’s ability to drive, especially if the drugs are combined with alcohol or other substances.
Truck drivers might be more prone to suffer from opioid-related truck accidents. Drivers are required to put in long hours away from their families. Because they are sitting for long periods of time, they may suffer from conditions associated with living a sedentary lifestyle. This can include back pain, neck pain, or other conditions leading to pain. These patients may seek out pain medications to treat their pain and allow them to continue driving. However, when truck drivers take pain medication, they could be knowingly or unwittingly putting others at risk on the road.
To make matters worse, the nature of opioids can put drivers of risk of becoming addicted to these drugs, abusing these drugs, or turning to other drugs like heroin. Because so many Americans are impacted by the opioid crisis, Mother Against Drunk Driving expanded its mission in 2015 to include drugged driving. According to the Annals of Internal Medicine, as many as 92 million Americans used prescription opioids in 2015 alone.
The opioid epidemic has been traced back to the over-prescription of opioid pain medication for everything from back pain to tooth extractions. According to one doctor writing for the New York Times, the pharmaceutical companies told doctors that opioids didn’t have side effects at a time when doctors were placing more focus on the importance of pain management. The problem was that doctors prescribed opioids for conditions for which patients may not have needed the medications. Doctors have also found themselves struggling to treat patients who claim they have pain but really want more access to prescription opioids.
Truck drivers are required to pass medical exams to qualify for a commercial driver’s license. According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, a truck driver’s passing medical exam is valid for up to 24 months. However, much can change in a 24-month period. A truck driver can develop new medical conditions, develop an addiction to opioids, or find themselves facing a serious illness. Unfortunately, truck drivers may not always report these changes to their employers. Furthermore, truck drivers may continue to work despite their medical conditions.
To make matters worse, as doctors fear lawsuits for prescribing opioids, doctors are restricting their prescriptions and limiting the kinds of pain medications they prescribe to people who are already using opioids. This can leave patients suffering from withdrawal. Some of these patients can be truck drivers who might be struggling to focus on the road while also struggling with the impact of withdrawal, a potentially deadly combination. According to the Washington Post, in the attempt to limit the number of prescriptions doctors are making, doctors may inadvertently be throwing patients who are already addicted into acute crisis.
Truck drivers may also be uniquely able to access opioid prescriptions. Patients rooted in one city or one area, quickly become known by pharmacists and doctors as having a problem. Doctors can then perform a coordinated effort to restrict the patient’s access to the drugs and coordinate care for recovery. Yet, truck drivers can drive across the country, visiting doctors and hospital rooms, asking for pain medication to treat their conditions. Without a robust reporting system in place, doctors may unwittingly prescribe these patients more drugs than they need, or prevent them from seeking help. The Washington Post even reported on a truck driver who knew he would be suffering from the effects of withdrawal while driving.
Truck drivers may also be able to drive while taking certain kinds of medications. It is up to a trucker’s doctor to determine whether the driver is safe. Some doctors may pass the driver, even if they are taking certain kinds of medications.
At the end of the day, trucking companies need to have policies in place to protect their drivers and others on the road. When companies fail to properly vet their drivers and monitor their drivers for addiction and drug use, accidents can happen.
If you or a loved one was hurt in a truck accident in Dallas, Texas, consider reaching out to the truck accident personal injury lawyers at the Lenahan Law Firm. Our lawyers can use all means available to determine the factors that may have led to your accident. Sometimes drug use plays a role; sometimes drivers are fatigued, and sometimes a truck hasn’t been properly maintained. If you or a loved one has suffered as a result of a truck accident, you may be entitled to seek damages for your losses. However, you may only have a limited amount of time to make a claim under the law. Visit our firm at the Lenahan Law Firm to learn more.