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THE IMPACT OF DRUGS ON ROAD CRASHES ASSAULTS AND OTHER TRAUMA – A

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					THE IMPACT OF DRUGS ON ROAD CRASHES ASSAULTS AND
OTHER TRAUMA – A PROSPECTIVE TRAUMA TOXICOLOGY
STUDY.
NDLERF MONOGRAPH No. 20
Griggs, Caldicott, Pfeiffer, Edwards, Pearce & Davey (2007).
Plain English summary and implications for police prepared by Roger Nicholas.

Methodology
This South Australian study involved 2,127 individuals and sought to gain more knowledge about
the relationship between alcohol and other drug use and the incidence and severity of trauma. The
2,127 individuals were made up of 1,515 patients who presented with sufficiently severe injuries
to be seen by the Royal Adelaide Hospital (RAH) Trauma Team; 202 trauma patients who presented
to the RAH Emergency Department but who had less severe injuries; and 410 patients who were
used as a comparison group. This comparison group was a matched group of outpatients who had
provided a blood sample to the South Australian Institute of Medical and Veterinary Science. SA
Police random breath testing data for the period of the study was also utilised.

Key findings:
• Alcohol was the drug found most commonly in trauma patients, however other drugs such as
  cannabis were also prevalent.
• Among injured drivers, 22.6% tested positive to alcohol, 17.4% tested positive to cannabis-
  related substances, 14.7% tested positive to benzodiazepines1, 6.9% tested positive to
  amphetamines and 3.3% tested positive to opioids2.
• Of those patients affected by interpersonal violence, 72.2% tested positive to alcohol and/or
  other drugs and 53% tested positive to drugs other than alcohol.
• Of those patients injured in falls (predominantly an older group of individuals) 34% tested
  positive to alcohol and/or other drugs.
• Of those patients who were injured on industrial/construction sites, 24.2% tested positive to
  alcohol and/or other drugs, while 55.7% of patients who were injured in a trade or service
  setting tested positive for alcohol and/or other drugs.
• The use of alcohol was associated with an increased incidence of trauma, an increased number
  of injuries, more severe injuries and a worse clinical condition on arrival at hospital.
• The use of drugs other than alcohol was associated with an increased incidence of trauma, a
  greater number of injuries, more severe injuries and longer hospital stays.


1
  Benzodiazpines are a group of sedative drugs commonly prescribed for conditions such as insomnia and anxiety. Included
in this group are drugs such as Valium™ (diazepam), Serapax™ (oxazepam), and Normison™ (temazepam).
2
    Opioids are a group of drugs that includes heroin, morphine, methadone, oxycodone.


Funded by the Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing
as part of its commitment to the National Drug Strategy.

www.ndlerf.gov.au
    • The use of alcohol and other drugs was associated with an increased incidence of trauma, more
2     severe trauma, longer hospital stays, an increased likelihood of being admitted to hospital after
      attending a hospital emergency service, and a worse clinical condition on arrival at hospital.
    • The use of cannabis was associated with an increased incidence of trauma, an increased
      number of injuries, increased trauma severity and longer hospital stays.
    • Indigenous patients, although comprising a small proportion of the injured patients, were more
      likely than non-Indigenous patients to test positive for alcohol or other drugs.
    • Motor vehicle crashes were the most common cause of injury, with injured drivers being more
      likely to test positive for alcohol, cannabis, benzodiazepines, amphetamines, and/or opioids
      compared with other injured people.
    • Of those trauma patients who were involved in car crashes and who tested positive for
      alcohol, 65.4% had a blood alcohol level above 0.05mg%, 50.4% had a blood alcohol level
      of 0.11mg% or greater, 30% had a blood alcohol level of 0.16mg%, and 15.4% had a blood
      alcohol level of greater than 0.2mg%.
    • Of those injured drivers with a positive blood alcohol concentration, 35% tested positive for
      another drug and were also less likely than other drivers to have been wearing a seat belt when
      they crashed.

    Implications for police
    There is a well-established research base which points to the relationship between alcohol use and
    involvement in car crashes, interpersonal violence and other trauma.
    This research confirms this evidence base and extends it to include other drugs, in particular
    cannabis, amphetamines and benzodiazepines.
    The relationship between alcohol and other drug use and road crashes is of particular interest
    to police, given their role in random and targeted breath alcohol and drug testing. This research
    clearly points to the need for strategies to address the problem of driving when affected by the use
    of drugs other than alcohol. These strategies should not, however, be at the expense of anti-drink
    driving strategies. As this research has demonstrated, alcohol remains the drug that is associated
    with the majority of road crash trauma cases.
    Given the important role that police play in reducing the supply of alcohol (such as the policing
    of licensed premises) and other drugs, they are well placed to impact upon the level of injury and
    trauma that is associated with the consumption of these substances. In this regard, strategies that
    address the serving of alcohol to intoxicated persons, and to underage persons are likely to have
    significant impacts.
    The strategies that are currently in place to divert minor illicit drug offenders into intervention
    programs may also provide a useful opportunity to bring to the attention of offenders the risks that
    are associated with illicit drug (and alcohol) consumption, where this impacts upon driving, the
    workplace, and the risk of injury from incidents such as assaults.
    A full copy of this report is available on the NDLERF website at www.ndlerf.gov.au




    Funded by the Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing
    as part of its commitment to the National Drug Strategy.

    www.ndlerf.gov.au

				
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