The opioid epidemic taking over the United States has also affected the trucking industry.
Concerns about truck driver impairment aren’t new – drug use has been high among truck drivers for quite some time. According to the American Addiction Centers, a worldwide study of truckers and their working conditions found that 50% of drivers interviewed admitted to drinking and 30% percent confessed to taking amphetamines.
However, as opioid addiction continues to rise, a failure to properly test for these drugs in truck drivers is causing an entirely new epidemic, and opioid use is becoming a serious risk for everyone on the road.
Why Is Opioid Use A Problem Among Truck Drivers?
Like all opioid users, truck drivers gain access and become addicted to opioids one of two ways: through recreational use or through legitimate prescription use that becomes an addiction.
Because of the nature of their job, truck drivers are highly susceptible to opioid addiction. Long hours and fatigue become the norm, and drivers find relief in the use of psychoactive substances believing they will help increase their willingness to work.
Other drivers are dealing with injuries and struggling to push through the pain during long hauls. They may have been injured loading or unloading the truck or making repairs, or they may have suffered an injury outside of the job and are now dealing with chronic pain.
Often, drivers received a legitimate opioid prescription from their doctor. However, these substances are highly addictive – something pharmaceutical manufacturers and medical professionals have severely downplayed. They often prescribe opioids when painkillers aren’t truly needed, prescribe unnecessarily high dosages, or prescribe pain medication for a longer duration than the patient needs.
Opioids are safest when used for three or fewer days, but many truck drivers take them for much longer in order to manage their pain while driving. Consequently, repeated opioid use slows down the body’s production of endorphins, meaning the same dosage stops being effective for pain relief.
In order to get the needed relief, users need to increase their doses, resulting in a dangerous cycle and eventually addiction. And one of the greatest dangers comes when these opioid-addicted individuals choose to get on the road.
The Most Common Types of Opioids
Opioids are a type of narcotic painkiller naturally found in the opium poppy plant. Some opioids are made directly from the plant, and others are created by scientists using the same chemical structure. Opioids are frequently prescribed for serious and chronic pain, and they are highly addictive. Depending on the dosage and frequency of use, some patients can develop an addiction in just a few weeks.
Opioids are typically prescribed to patients who suffered a physical injury, recently had surgery, or suffer from chronic pain. The most common types of opioids are:
- Hydrocodone (Vicodin)
- Methadone (Dolophine)
- Oxycodone (OxyContin, Percocet, Roxicodone, Oxecta)
- Morphine (MS Contin)
- Hydromorphone (Dilaudid)
- Propoxyphene (Darvon, Darvocet)
- Fentanyl (Duragesic)
Medical professionals often use the WHO analgesic ladder as a pain management guide. This three-step algorithm escalates from non-opioids for mild pain, to strong opioids for severe pain. While this approach was thought to have tremendous value when it was introduced, ultimately, it’s up to the doctor to administer the lowest effective dose and to refrain from prescribing addictive pain pills that are medically unnecessary for the patient’s condition. Unfortunately, some doctors still prescribe opioids when they aren’t medically necessary, prescribe unnecessarily strong opioids, higher dosages and longer prescriptions than necessary.
The Impact of the Opioid Epidemic on Traffic Fatalities
The number of drivers with prescription opioids in their systems at the time of death has seen a significant increase over the last twenty years, from 1% in 1995 to 7.2% in 2015. In fact, the effects of opioids on traffic fatalities are so serious, MADD has expanded its mission statement to include drug-impaired driving.
Because prescription opiates are so widely prescribed, many people, truck drivers included, may think it’s safe to go about routine activities like driving. However, this is not the case, especially when opiates are used in conjunction with other drugs and alcohol. Opioids are known to cause drowsiness and fatigue, and using them while operating a vehicle – especially a large commercial truck capable of causing extreme damage – is a huge threat to everyone on the road.
What’s being done to solve this problem?
The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) requires CDL drivers to be drug tested after any crash involving a human fatality or a crash that causes disabling damage to a motor vehicle, requiring it to be towed.
Until recently, those drugs tests only tested for alcohol, marijuana, heroin, and cocaine. However, as of January 1, 2018, the DOT has finally updated the mandatory drug testing to include a test for synthetic opioids. This will test for the presence of four commonly used semi-synthetic opioids: hydrocodone, hydromorphone, oxymorphone, and oxycodone.
Although there’s required drug testing after a serious 18 wheeler accident, it’s often difficult for the victim to obtain access to the test results, especially when they are focused on taking care of their loved ones or making funeral arrangements. An experienced Dallas truck accident lawyer is able to acquire these test results, determine if the wreck was caused by an impaired driver, and help the victim decide the best course of action for moving forward.
What To Expect After A Drug-Related 18 Wheeler Accident
If you’ve been involved in an accident with an 18 wheeler, we encourage you to hire a lawyer right away.
As soon as the accident happens, the trucking company starts building their case. Many trucking companies have rapid response teams, or rapid deployment forces, that are sent to the accident scene within the hour. These teams consist of investigators, photographers, and lawyers whose purpose is to retrieve evidence, interview witnesses, and start creating a defense to fight personal injury or wrongful death claims that crash victims may bring.
We understand the hours and days immediately following an accident can be difficult. If your family member is seriously injured or killed during the accident, you will rightfully be focused on attending to your loved ones and making arrangements.
However, waiting just a few days after the accident means vehicles will be towed away, altered or repaired, the accident site will be cleaned up, and the remaining evidence could easily be swept away by rain. You will lose access to important evidence that could help your case – evidence that the trucking company already has.
Hiring An 18 Wheeler Accident Lawyer
If you’ve been injured in an 18 wheeler accident, you likely won’t know what the real cause for the wreck was. The only way to find out is by filing a case against the driver, getting the necessary evidence from the scene, and gaining access to the truck driver’s record. This is why you need an experienced 18 wheeler accident lawyer advocating on your behalf.
Time is of the essence. If you or a family member were injured or killed due to a motor vehicle accident with an 18 wheeler, we advise you to contact us right away. We’ll help you determine if you should move forward with a legal claim and explain which steps to take next.
Contact us below for a free consultation with an experienced Dallas truck accident lawyer.