Synthetic Drugs and the Danger of Drugged Driving

We’ve all heard the message that drinking and driving don’t mix. Intense education campaigns have taught people that driving while drunk threatens the safety of the driver and everyone else who has the misfortune of travelling on the same road at the same time. However, while they know about the danger of drunk driving, people often fail to identify the broader threat of “driving under the influence,” a threat that also includes driving under the influence of drugs. Drugged driving can involve legal or illegal substances. It also includes the category of synthetic drugs, a growing concern to our Sacramento DUI injury law firm.

Understanding Synthetic Drugs
Synthetic drugs, as discussed by the White House’s Office of National Drug Control Policy, are often sold in stores with labels often read “not for human consumption,” a falsehood that masks their intended use and allows the substances to avoid FDA regulation. Examples of synthetic drugs include synthetic marijuana, plant materials that are laced with chemicals that mimic THC which is the active ingredient in marijuana (also known as “Spice” or “K2”), and “bath salts,” which contain manmade chemicals akin to amphetamines. A 2011 study revealed that 11.4% of high school seniors had used synthetic marijuana in the past year, making it the second most commonly used illicit substance for the age group. Public health officials note that the adverse health effects of synthetic drugs can include hallucinations, paranoia, violent behavior, agitation, elevated blood pressure, high pulse rate, and seizures.

Driving Under the Influence of Synthetic Drugs: A New and Growing Threat
Synthetic drug use is far from a victimless crime and the substances pose a threat to both users and bystanders. News stories involving synthetic drugs have included some truly horrific events, including multiple reported cases of cannibalistic behavior. A growing number of stories involve users driving under the influence of synthetic drugs. The driver in an accident that killed two in a Philadelphia suburb in May admitted to having used K2 a mere ten minutes prior to the crash. In a story published on July 3, Phillyburbs.com reported that the driver told authorities the drug made it feel like he was having an asthma attack, causing a rapid heartbeat, blurry vision, and a panicked feeling. Last fall, according to a Tennessee District Attorney and reported by WBIR, a 21 year-old high on bath salts crashed his SUV into a church van returning from a youth retreat. The crash killed two, the church’s youth leader and a sixteen year old girl, and injured ten others.

Given the difficulties of testing for the substances and the ever-changing formulas, it is impossible to say how many car accidents have been caused by synthetic drugs. In general, drugged driving is a threat that communities are just beginning to take seriously. Recently the state awarded nearly two million dollars in grants to Sacramento County to battle the problem of drivers impaired by drugs. A Sacramento Bee reporter noted that the grants include $740,000 for testing equipment that is faster and can detect an expanded number of drugs, including bath salts. Chris Murphy, the head of the Office of Traffic Safety, noted that there is a need for public education on the topic of drugged driving, including the impairments caused by prescription drugs. He compared the state of awareness regarding drugged driving to the awareness (or lack thereof) about alcohol and driving in the 1950s.

Our Sacramento injury law firm has had a long-standing commitment to helping the victims of drunk drivers. This commitment also extends to serving as a law firm for the victims of drugged driving accidents, including representing the victims of drivers under the influence of synthetic drugs.

See Related Blog Posts:
Focusing on Drugged Driving Following the Death of a Young Victim

Northern California Injury Attorney on Drugged Driving and Medication Take-Back Programs