Many prescription drug users not aware of driving-related risks

A large portion of patients taking prescription drugs that could affect driving may not be aware they could potentially be driving impaired, according to research in the November issue of the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs.

Nearly 20 percent of people in the study reported recent use of a prescription medication with the potential for impairment, but not all said they were aware that the medication could affect their driving, despite the potential for receiving warnings from their doctor, their pharmacist, or the medication label itself.

The percentages of those who said they had received a warning from one of those sources varied by type of medication: 86 percent for sedatives, 85 percent for narcotics, 58 percent for stimulants, and 63 percent for antidepressants.

In the report, researchers used data from the 2013-2014 National Roadside Survey, which asked drivers randomly selected at 60 sites across the United States questions about drug use, including prescription drugs. A total of 7,405 drivers completed the prescription drug portion of the survey.

Although it is unclear if the study participants actually received the warnings, or if they did receive the warnings but didn’t retain the information, the authors say this scenario is in need of further research.

“We were very surprised that our study was the first we could find on this topic,” says lead researcher Robin Pollini, Ph.D., M.P.H., of the Injury Control Research Center at West Virginia University. “It’s a pretty understudied area, and prescription drugs are a growing concern.”

In this study, the type of medication in question was also related to drivers’ perceptions about their impairment risk. They were most likely to think that sleep aids were the most likely to affect safe driving, followed by morphine/codeine, other amphetamines, and muscle relaxants. Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) medications were viewed as least likely to affect driving risk. Sleep aids were also viewed as the most likely to cause an accident or result in criminal charges, and ADHD medications were viewed as the least likely.

Pollini says she hopes this research will lead to increased warnings provided by doctors and pharmacists, as well as improved labeling for medications that are likely to impair driving. She says it’s not yet clear what the optimum messaging would be. But she is encouraged by the fact that patients who are prescribed these medications have several points at which they could receive this important information.

“The vast majority of drivers who are recent users of prescription drugs that have the potential for impairment have come into contact with a physician, a pharmacist, and a medication label,” says Pollini. “There’s an opportunity here that’s not being leveraged: to provide people with accurate information about what risks are associated with those drugs. People can then make informed decisions about whether they’re able to drive.”

A related commentary by Benedikt Fischer, Ph.D., of the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto, Canada, and colleagues expresses concern that increased warnings and interventions may be insufficient to reduce the chances of driving while impaired. These authors point to the issue of alcohol-impaired driving to suggest that only deterrence-based measures–such as roadside testing, license suspensions, and increased insurance premiums–have the potential to change behavior.

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To arrange an interview with Robin Pollini, Ph.D., M.P.H., please contact Kimberly Becker at 304.293.1699 or Kimberly.Becker@hsc.wvu.edu.

Pollini, R. A., Waehrer, G., & Kelley-Baker, T. (November 2017). Receipt of warnings regarding potentially impairing prescription medications and associated risk perceptions in a national sample of U.S. drivers. Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, 78(6), 805-813. doi:10.15288/jsad.2017.78.805

Fischer, B., Fidalgo, T., & Varatharajan, T. (November 2017). Reflections on Pollini et al. (2017)–Implications for interventions for driving while using psychotropic medications with impairment risk. Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, 78(6), 814-816. doi:10.15288/jsad.2017.78.814

The Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs is published by the Center of Alcohol Studies at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey. It is the oldest substance-related journal published in the United States.

To learn about education and training opportunities for addiction counselors and others at the Rutgers Center of Alcohol Studies, please visit AlcoholStudiesEd.rutgers.edu.

Source: Many prescription drug users not aware of driving-related risks | EurekAlert! Science News

Safety-related impacts of recreational marijuana legalization

Safety-related impacts of recreational marijuana legalizationBy Contributing Writer – October 27, 2017198 0Share on Facebook Tweet on Twitter In addition to the economic and health impacts of marijuana legalization (previous articles at uccseconomicforum.com/publications_media.shtml or at csbj.com), another important dimension to consider are the safety impacts. This would include traffic-related fatalities and other serious traffic incidents, seizures (or confiscation) of illegal or over-the-limit marijuana product, diversion of Colorado marijuana to other states where it is illegal, property and violent crime rates, and homelessness. Although not an exhaustive list of safety-related metrics, these are good indicators of how our broader community is being affected by the legalization of recreational marijuana. This article will cover traffic-related metrics and the final article will discuss other safety-related metrics.Much like the other dimensions related to tracking the effects of legalization, it is important to note that safety data is somewhat compromised by two factors. One, there is typically at least a one- to two-year lag in the availability of safety-related data, and recreational marijuana only became legal and available for retail sale in 2014. Two, given that recreational marijuana was previously illegal, our state did not have a robust methodology for systematically collecting information on marijuana-related crime nor methods for testing drivers for tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the psychoactive component of marijuana. Nonetheless, some meaningful information is beginning to emerge.To begin, measuring drivers for THC is challenging because its effects peak very soon after consumption, then begin to fall rather quickly, although lower levels of THC stay in the system for quite a while. By the time a crash has happened and a person gets tested, THC levels may be dramatically lower than when the crash occurred. Likewise, a low level of THC can remain in someone’s system many hours after consumption, complicating a true measure of impairment levels. Further clouding the issue is that marijuana-impaired drivers are often also drinking alcohol. Testing for driving under the influence of alcohol is easier and more mainstream, so many officers do not go beyond a positive DUI reading even if they suspect marijuana use. It is noteworthy that 36 percent of all drivers in Colorado involved in a fatal car crash who did test positive for THC had also consumed alcohol (CDOT). As discussed in an earlier article, the cross sensitization of alcohol and marijuana makes the effects of both together greater than the sum of each individually.The graph below shows the increase in marijuana-related traffic deaths in the past 10 years in Colorado (up 279 percent). In terms of the proportion of total traffic-related fatalities, in 2009, marijuana impairment was involved in 9 percent of fatalities; by 2016, 21 percent of fatalities involved marijuana impairment. This data may seriously under represent the attribution of marijuana impairment in traffic deaths, however, because only 44 percent of cadavers from traffic deaths have toxicology testing for marijuana. It is noteworthy that also in the last 10 years, population has increased 17 percent, and all traffic deaths increased 16 percent. If we examine DUIDs (driving under the influence of drugs), but not fatalities, the number of positive toxicology screens for marijuana rose 63 percent in the pre-legalization period (2009-2012) compared to the post-legalization period (2013-2016). Out of 1,004 DUIDs in 2016, 76 percent involved marijuana and another substance, and 38 percent involved marijuana only.A 2010 National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Report estimated that the total economic costs for a vehicular fatality were $1.4 million including property damage, medical costs, insurance costs, lost productivity and other factors. The economic costs of the 125 traffic fatalities involving marijuana in Colorado in 2016 would have been approximately $175 million. The estimated cost of a DUID in the same 2010 NHTSA report was $10,270. If we conservatively use that dated amount and apply it to the number of known DUIDs in 2016, the cost in Colorado was approximately $7.9 million. If we juxtapose these two traffic-related costs to collected marijuana taxes, the costs outweigh the benefits by several million dollars (see table).These rough estimations do not consider the fatalities or other incidents that are marijuana related but not captured via toxicology testing. Nor does this one estimate encapsulate the other various costs associated with safety or health-related impacts. What this data does show us is the importance of comprehensively examining both the revenue and cost implications of legalization. Although we are now almost four full years into recreational legalization, and it is not likely that the legal status will change, we can use the information to

Source: Safety-related impacts of recreational marijuana legalization

Parish president says he was not impaired

Larry Cochran mug
St. Charles Parish President Larry Cochran, via Kenner Police Department

St. Charles Parish President Larry Cochran claims he was not impaired when he was pulled over by police while driving in Kenner last month and that he has prescriptions for the drugs found in his system afterward, his attorney said Thursday.

The lawyer, Wiley Beevers, said that Cochran likely appeared unsteady during a field sobriety test at the time of his arrest because of a childhood surgery in which he had a benign tumor removed from his right ear. The surgery has affected his balance to this day, said Beevers, who provided a doctor’s note explaining the surgery.

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For weeks, Cochran has been under pressure from other parish officials to explain his arrest. He was pulled over the morning of Sept. 2, and while he had no detectable alcohol in his system he tested positive for a combination of prescription pain killers.

Beevers said Cochran is prepared to prove that he has valid prescriptions for both oxycodone and hydrocodone, drugs commonly sold as Oxycontin and Vicodin, although he did not provide the documentation Thursday. 

A third drug found in Cochran’s system, oxymorphone, is a byproduct of the oxycodone and not a separate drug, Beevers said.

He said Cochran has undergone a half-dozen recent medical procedures — including multiple surgeries — for problems with his hands, shoulder, back and urinary tract.

Cochran, nonetheless, had not taken either medication for several days before he was pulled over, Beevers said.

“Larry doesn’t deny he was operating the vehicle, but he denies he was operating it in a reckless manner,” Beevers said. “He was not impaired. Anybody who has a script can take medication as prescribed.”

Kenner police have said Cochran was pulled over about 12:30 a.m. after a witness called to report a Chevy Tahoe with a public license plate was “swerving all over the roadway” and even driving into the neutral ground on Joe Yenni Boulevard in north Kenner.

An officer pulled the vehicle over on Cabernet Drive, near the home of Cochran’s secretary. Police said Cochran performed poorly on a field sobriety test and that he displayed bloodshot, glossy eyes and slow speech.

According to police, Cochran also made strange comments, asking if there was anything officers could do for him and saying, “I guess this means I should fill out my resignation papers.”

Cochran showed a blood-alcohol content of .00 on what is commonly referred to as the Breathalyzer test; the legal limit is .08 percent. But police said he bit off the mouthpiece on the testing machine when he first tried to take it.

Suspecting he was impaired by drugs, they drew his blood and booked him on counts of driving under the influence and reckless operation of a motor vehicle.

Cochran was released from jail shortly after his arrest because of overcrowding. Police publicly released the blood test results last week.

Beevers on Thursday hinted at other aspects of the defense he may present for Cochran if the case goes to trial.

He also said Cochran’s car was stopped on the side of the street when police initiated the traffic stop because the parish president was worried he was being followed.

“Police never saw him driving in a reckless manner,” Beevers said. “For a traffic stop, police must observe you breaking the law.”

At least one Parish Council member previously said he wanted Cochran to make a statement about the drugs found by the blood test.

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Wiley Beevers portrait
Wiley Beevers (courtesy of Wiley Beevers)

“I don’t know if it was just a one-time incident,” Councilman Paul Hogan said. “I don’t know if it is a recurring situation with him.”

But fellow Councilman Terrell Wilson said Cochran deserves the benefit of the doubt. “People ask me if he’s showing up at work,” Wilson said. “He’s at work, doing his job.”

Cochran was elected parish president in November 2015, succeeding V.J. St. Pierre. He had previously served as the Parish Council chairman.

A preliminary hearing in his case is scheduled for Dec. 4 at 1st Jefferson Parish Court in Metairie. Prosecutors had not filed charges against him as of Thursday.

Driver who’s called a ‘clear danger’ gets maximum prison sentence

Driver who’s called a ‘clear danger’ gets maximum prison sentenceBy Melinda Miller | Published October 26, 2017 | Updated October 26, 2017SHARE TWEET His second arrest for driving while high cost Maxamillion Hernandez dearly on Thursday when he was sentenced to 1 3/4 to four years in prison on his conviction for vehicular assault.On May 10, 2016, Hernandez, 22, drove his speeding car through a red light in the Town of Tonawanda when he was in a chase with another vehicle. His car T-boned a taxicab on River Road, seriously injuring a passenger and also harming the driver.He also told investigators he had smoked pot earlier in the day.While Hernandez was free and awaiting resolution of the felony charges against him in that case, he was arrested on Aug. 16, 2016, while driving on Route 400 in West Seneca, and charged with driving while impaired.“So,” Erie County Judge Sheila A. DiTullio said to Hernandez on Thursday, “you have one case pending where people were seriously injured, and three months later you are arrested for the same thing again. “You drive when you are high a lot,” she said bluntly.Assistant District Attorney Christopher McCarthy said neither victim wanted to come to court to give a statement, but that they trusted the court to deliver a fair sentence. He also reminded the judge that one of the victims suffered a severe head injury and fractures to his leg and ribs, preventing him from working for some time.For the defense, attorney Sean Hill made a lengthy appeal for the judge to consider the “brief period of incarceration” recommended in a pre-sentencing report for Hernandez, possibly ordered him to spend weekends in jail so he could continue attending Erie Community College.He pointed out that video of the injury crash showed that Hernandez braked when he saw the other car, that he stayed at the scene and that he and his passenger tried to help the people in the taxicab.But Hernandez’s continued use of drugs, even after both arrests and counseling, was too much for the judge.“You’re just a clear danger and a threat to others on the road,” she said, before pronouncing the maximum sentence allowed for vehicular assault in the second degree, a Class E felony. A one-year sentence for his conviction for the second arrest will run concurrently.

Source: Driver who’s called a ‘clear danger’ gets maximum prison sentence – The Buffalo News

Driver revived for third time within a month with Narcan

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VINELAND – For a third time within a month, a city man was revived by Narcan after he was found unconscious behind the wheel.

Richard Flores Jr., 28, of the 500 block of South Eighth Street, was arrested around 5:30 p.m. Friday after police received a call about a unconscious male driver behind the wheel of a vehicle at Myrtle Street and Michigan Avenue.

A witness told officers that the driver might be overdosing, noting there was a hypodermic needle stuck in Flores’ arm.

Flores regained consciousness after Vineland EMS administered Narcan. He was taken to Inspira Medical Center Vineland for further medical evaluation.

According to police reports, Flores was involved in motor vehicle crashes on Sept. 22 and Oct. 8 where he also overdosed at the scene and needles and heroin were found in his possession.

Narcan has been administered numerous times to Flores to revive him, however, “he is a repeat offender and is driving unlicensed and revoked,” police said.

Flores was charged with driving under the influence of narcotics and issued summonses for reckless driving, controlled dangerous substance in a motor vehicle, being an unlicensed driver, driving while on the revoked list, possession of drug paraphernalia, and other related drug offenses.

The case is pending in Cumberland County Superior Court and Vineland Municipal Court.