A new approach to defining opioid-related auto fatalities provides insight into the nature and distribution of opioid-involved deaths in the state of Maryland, say the authors of a new study led by researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
In their study, which was published in the journal Accident Analysis and Prevention, researchers examined opioid-related auto fatalities in Maryland from 2006 through 2017. During the study period, opioid-involved crash deaths accounted for 10 percent of all driver deaths. In one analysis, the researchers used data on drivers with an opioid-positive toxicology report, which included those who received opioid treatment — possibly for crash-related injuries — hours or even days after the accident and subsequently died but who may not have had opioids in their system at the time of the crash. In this analysis, the researchers found that the number of opioid-involved fatal crashes increased from 8.3 percent of all crashes in 2006 to 14.1 percent in 2017.
Yet in a second analysis that only counted driver deaths at the scene and one positive toxicology report, there was no significant change from 2006 to 2017. In 2006, seven percent of drivers dead on the scene tested positive for opioids, increasing to nine percent of drivers in 2017.
The study was led by Dr. Johnathon Ehsani, Leon S. Robertson Faculty Development Chair and assistant professor in the Bloomberg School’s department of health policy and management.