Rx Medications & Poly-Drugged Driving

Rx MEDICATION & POLY-DRUGGED DRIVING America’s Perception on Consumption & Road Risk

The Mission of Mothers Against Drunk Driving ® (MADD ® ) is to end drunk driving, help fight drugged driving, support the victims of these violent crimes, and prevent underage drinking. Since MADD’s founding in 1980, we have advocated for stronger laws and policies based on proven research and data. With a growing number of states legalizing recreational marijuana, the national opioid crisis, and the prevalence of prescription drugs, we are committed to understanding the complexity of this landscape and advocating for policies that improve the safety of our nation’s roadways. That is why more research and data for drugged driving is needed to help define and identify the impairing effects of legal and illegal drugs, and to better understand the number of drivers involved in drug-impaired driving crashes. It is critical that we have research and data to better understand the problem of drugged driving. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 64% of seriously and fatally injured drivers tested at five major trauma centers during the second quarter of 2020 had at least one impairing substance in their system, including opioids, marijuana, alcohol, stimulants, and anti-depressants. The presence of opioids among those drivers jumped from 6.8% in the fourth quarter of 2019 to over 14% in the second and third quarters of 2020, and over 9% in the first and fourth quarters. (NHTSA, 2021 Traffic Safety Facts) Recognizing this alarming trend, MADD set out to develop a baseline understanding of the prevalence of driving while impaired by prescription drugs – including drug class: opioids 1 , depressants 2 , and stimulants 3 – as well as poly-drugged driving 4 . The research was also designed to measure public attitudes and awareness of the risks associated with driving under these conditions. This report highlights some of the findings from the MADD Rx Medication & Poly-Drugged Driving Survey of 2,026 U.S. adults across the United States. A more extensive report of the findings in combination with the results from the 2020 Cannabis Report, published by MADD, will provide a foundation on which to base our outreach and education aimed at reducing crashes and fatalities due to drug-impaired driving. MADD DEDICATES THIS REPORT TO SHAWN, DAVID AND DAWN, THE ENTIRE VASQUEZ FAMILY, AND TO ALL THE VICTIMS OF THE 100 PERCENT PREVENTABLE CRIMES OF DRUNK AND DRUG-IMPAIRED DRIVING.

1. Phrased in the survey as: An opioid prescription medication that can cause impairment, (e.g., to treat pain like OxyContin or Vicodin) 2. Phrased in the survey as: A depressant prescription medication that can cause impairment, (e.g., to treat anxiety or sleep disorders like Valium or Xanax) 3. Phrased in the survey as: A stimulant prescription medication that can cause impairment, (e.g., to treat ADHD like Adderall or Ritalin) 4. Phrased in the survey as: A mixture of alcohol, marijuana, and/or prescription medications that can cause impairment Shawn’s father, David, and mother Dawn passionately volunteer with their local MADD office to help spread awareness of these 100% preventable crimes in honor of Shawn. They had hopes and dreams for Shawn that will never be fulfilled and want to make sure that people remember that there is always another option besides driving impaired. In July 2020, Shawn was killed in a crash as he was finishing up work on an active construction site. The crash was caused by someone who was allegedly drinking and tested positive for Fentanyl, Cocaine, and Marijuana. Shawn was 23 years old. Shawn’s family and friends describe him as someone who never knew a stranger. He was full of life, a protector of those who were in danger, a double extrovert with a habit of making people see the joy in life around them. He had a servant’s heart and helped wherever he saw need.

Survey Conducted June 2021 // Released September 2021

©2021 Mothers Against Drunk Driving ®

Drug-impaired driving is rising at an alarming rate.

ABOUT ONE IN FIVE U.S. ADULTS HAVE PERSONALLY DRIVEN, OR KNOW SOMEONE WHO HAS DRIVEN, WHILE IMPAIRED BY PRESCRIPTION MEDICATIONS: opioids (18%), depressants (18%), stimulants (17%), as well as a mixture of alcohol, marijuana, and/or prescription medications (22%). Drunk driving remains the most prevalent relative to prescription medications and marijuana.





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Driven Drunk Or Know Someone Who Has

FIFTY-NINE PERCENT of U.S. adults have either driven drunk themselves or know someone who has engaged in this behavior.


ABOUT ONE IN 20 U.S. ADULTS ADMIT TO DRIVINGWITHIN TWO HOURS OF CONSUMING EACH OF THE PRESCRIPTION MEDICATIONS SURVEYED . Driving under the influence of Rx opioids (6%) and depressants (also 6%) is slightly more common than stimulants (4%). Seven percent admit to poly-drugged driving – a mixture of alcohol, marijuana, and/or prescription medications that can cause impairment. This figure climbs to 11% among adults ages 25-34, while men are twice as likely as women to admit to poly-drugged driving (10% vs. 5%).





1 in 20


Considerable Uncertainty Exists Around Whether It’s Legal To Drive While Impaired By Rx Medications – Especially Stimulants.

There is some ambivalence around driving while impaired by prescription medications. HALF (50%) BELIEVE DRIVING WHILE IMPAIRED BY PRESCRIPTION OPIOIDS TO BE A SERIOUS CRIME, leaving the remainder to view it as either a minor traffic offense or legal ( 24% ), or unsure or unable to respond ( 26% ). U.S. adults are even more confused when it comes to driving while impaired by prescription depressants. 36% BELIEVE IT IS A SERIOUS CRIME vs. 33% who think it is a minor traffic offense or legal and 31% who are unsure or don’t answer. And they are considerably more confused by prescription stimulants ( 29% BELIEVE IT IS A SERIOUS CRIME vs. 37% who think it is a minor traffic offense or legal and 34% who are unsure or don’t answer, respectively).

Driving While Impaired By Opioids Is…

Driving While Impaired By Rx Depressants Is…

Driving While Impaired By Stimulants Is…










Unsure / Refused

Minor Traffic Offense / Legal

Illegal / Serious Crime

However, most U.S. adults understand the legal implications of drunk driving. Large majorities consider driving while impaired by alcohol and poly-drugged driving – which can include alcohol – to be illegal and serious crimes (84% and 81%, respectively). There is somewhat more ambivalence around driving while impaired by marijuana, where half (52%) see it as illegal and a serious crime. Drugged driving in any form is a serious crime, and it will take all of us to make our roadways safe.

85% SAY THEY WOULD BE VERY UNCOMFORTABLE RIDING WITH SOMEONEWHO HAS CONSUMED AMIXTURE OF ALCOHOL, MARIJUANA, AND/OR PRESCRIPTION MEDICATIONS – referred to in this report as “poly-drugged driving.” When asked to assess the level of public safety concern that driving under this same set of substances poses to American communities, poly-drugged driving takes the top spot. When it comes to level of discomfort riding with a driver under the influence of various substances, prescription opioids take the number two spot (68% rate as very uncomfortable), while alcohol lands in third place (60%). Likely given its greater prevalence and ease of access, alcohol ranks as the second-greatest public safety concern in American communities (55%) – just ahead of Rx opioids (48%).

Very Uncomfortable Riding With Someone Who Has Consumed...




Together we can eliminate drug-impaired driving and keep our roadways safe for everyone .

Driving under the influence of any drug, including impairing prescription medication, all too often has tragic consequences. Combining one or more impairing substance is even more dangerous than using each substance alone, leading to greater impairment and a greater risk of causing a crash. The growing number of victims of drug-impaired driving are at the heart of our efforts to bring attention to this increasing threat on our roads. We need everyone’s help to stop these senseless and 100 percent preventable crimes. Please talk to your medical provider about your medications, their potential side effects and any potential interactions that could affect your driving. Read the warning labels on prescription and over-the-counter medications and take them seriously. Driving after consuming impairing substances is a serious crime that can lead to traumatic, irreversible consequences. Designate a non-drinking, non-consuming driver after consuming any impairing substance and if side effects of medications are not fully understood. Don’t risk your life and the lives of others by driving impaired. Together we can eliminate drug-impaired driving and keep our roadways safe for everyone. WE NEED YOUR HELP TO STOP THESE SENSELESS TRAGEDIES. HERE’S WHAT YOU CAN DO: • TALK TO YOUR MEDICAL PROVIDER ABOUT YOUR MEDICATIONS, SIDE EFFECTS AND POTENTIAL INTERACTIONS THAT COULD AFFECT DRIVING. • READ WARNING LABELS ON PRESCRIPTIONS AND OVER-THE-COUNTER MEDICATIONS AND TAKE THEM SERIOUSLY. • DESIGNATE A NON-DRINKING, NON-CONSUMING DRIVER AFTER CONSUMING ANY IMPAIRING SUBSTANCE.

MADD is grateful to General Motors for their continued dedication to saving lives on our nation’s roadways.

METHODOLOGY The MADD Drugged Driving Survey was conducted by Ipsos Public Affairs using the KnowledgePanel—the only large-scale representative panel of the adult population in the U.S. for whichmembers are recruited using a probability-based address-based sampling methodology. In order to maintain full representation of all adults, households without Internet access are provided internet-enabled devices and ISP as well. From June 4-6, 2021, a random sample of 2,026 adults, across the U.S. were interviewed.


©2021 Mothers Against Drunk Driving ®

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