Drivers killed in crashes test positive for opioids and/or pot

BATON ROUGE, LA (WVUE) - Nearly two-thirds of drivers who died in a fatal accident across the U.S. tested positive for opioids, marijuana or both.

It's the results of a study by the Governor's Highway Safety Association.

"I'm not surprised by it at all," says Stephen Azzam.

DEA Special Agent-In-Chargee, Stephen Azzam points to the amount of people in this country addicted to opioids.

"You have 4 million Americans addicted to prescription pain pills, and that's not taking into account the folks that's taking heroin," says Azzam.

That's on the opioid side. He says there are many more Americans who use marijuana.

"You're seeing more and more states legalize marijuana recreationally and medically, so you're going to have more users. More people are impacted from the marijuana side," says Azzam.

According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse, 22 million Americans used marijuana in the past month. The report also comes as 9 states legalized recreational marijuana use.

"Now, if you combine those in what we call poly use, people using opioids and marijuana and then you get on the roads, you're going to have this crash course. You have this collision," says Azzam.

The study suggests more people are getting behind the wheel after getting high.

In 2006, nearly 28 percent of drivers who were tested, tested positive for drugs. In 2016, the number increased to 43 percent.

"So, we have to educate the public. We have to give our officers training. They need to come up with better testing," says Azzam.

Azzam points out, there's no quick field test that can be done to determine if a person has drugs in their system. Right now, according to the state police, there are 127 drug recognition experts in Louisiana. Those DRE officers are specially trained to recognize a drug impairment. A little more than 60 of them are state troopers. Azzam says while the results of the study are eye opening, he believes the true numbers are even higher.

"Every state is different. I would venture to say those numbers are even higher with impaired drivers," says Azzam.

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