A judge has ordered a Maine man who crashed his vehicle in New Hampshire while high on heroin last summer to undergo a three-month drug rehabilitation program.
Newburyport News reports the 24-year-old was removed from his smoking vehicle by a retired firefighter who happened to pass by after he had crashed into a cluster of trees. The driver suddenly awoke and told the good Samaritan he was fine, but the retired firefighter believed otherwise and summoned help. First responders found the man unconscious and not breathing so they administered an anti-opioid drug called Narcan to the driver. After he was stabilized, he was taken to a local hospital for treatment.
The story highlights what has been a growing problem nationally not just for health care providers and law enforcement, but for those who share the road with people under the influence. USA Today reported last year on federal data pointing to an alarming uptick in the percentage of traffic deaths attributed to drivers who tested positive for drugs over the last 10 years. There has been an overall upward trend in traffic fatalities in recent years, but the fact that the percentage of drivers testing positive for illicit and prescription drugs has increased points to this being a substantial part of the problem.
There are a few different factors coming into play here. The first is the nationwide movement to legalize marijuana. Even supporters of increasingly lax laws will concede the effects of the drug are dangerous for drivers. Recreational marijuana became legal in Maine this year, following a ballot initiative that passed last November by just 4,000 votes. Adults over 21 can now possess 2.5 ounces of marijuana, and can use it in private, non-public spaces.
As far as heroin, that too is a nationwide issue, but it’s definitely taken a significant toll here in Maine. Last year, the Portland Press Herald reported that drug overdose deaths in Maine spiked by 31 percent in 2015, reaching 272 total – the highest ever recorded. Of those, 107 involved straight heroin, while 157 involved some combination of heroin, fentanyl and acetyle fentanyl. (Fentanyl is often used as a substitute for heroin.) The rest involved prescription opioids.
This figure has risen steadily since 2011, when the state reported 155 fatal drug overdoses.
What this means is we’re seeing five fatal overdoses in this state every single week. What that also means, our Portland auto accident injury lawyers recognize, is we have many more drivers who are under the influence of these drugs who might not die of an overdose, but die of a crash or pose serious risk of injury and/or death to others on the road.
Officials say people are becoming addicted to prescription opioids and then turning to heroin when the pill supply runs dry.
Approximately 15,500 people in Maine received treatment for opioid addiction treatment in 2015, according to the state’s Department of Health and Human Services.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, it can be difficult to know how certain drugs affect driving because many people tend to mix various substances, including alcohol.
If you are the victim of a Bangor car accident, contact Peter Thompson & Associates at 1-800-804-2004 for a confidential consultation to discuss your rights.
Maine man ordered to rehab after heroin-induced car crash, Feb. 23, 2017, By Dave Rogers, Newburyport News
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