Trends in Prescription Opioids Detected in Fatally Injured Drivers in 6 US States: 1995-2015

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Abstract

Objectives

To assess the time trends in prescription opioids detected in fatally injured drivers.

Methods

We analyzed 1995 to 2015 Fatality Analysis Reporting System data from California, Hawaii, Illinois, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and West Virginia of toxicological tests for drivers fatally injured within 1 hour of a crash (n = 36 729). We used the Cochran-Armitage test for trend to assess the statistical significance of changes in the prevalence of prescription opioids detected in these drivers over time.

Results

The prevalence of prescription opioids detected in fatally injured drivers increased from 1.0% (95% confidence interval [CI] = 0.5, 1.4) in 1995 to 7.2% (95% CI = 5.7, 8.8) in 2015 (Z = −9.04; P < .001). Prescription opioid prevalence was higher in female than in male drivers (4.4% vs 2.9%; P < .001). Of the drivers testing positive for prescription opioids, 30.0% had elevated blood alcohol concentrations (≥ 0.01 g/dL), and 66.9% tested positive for other drugs.

Conclusions

The prevalence of prescription opioids detected in fatally injured drivers has increased in the past 2 decades. The need to assess the effect of increased prescription opioid use on traffic safety is urgent.

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