Cover: Prevalence and Predictors of Driving After Prescription Opioid Use in an Adult ED Sample

Prevalence and Predictors of Driving After Prescription Opioid Use in an Adult ED Sample

Published in: Western Journal of Emergency Medicine: Integrating Emergency Care with Population Health, Volume 21, No. 4 (July 2020). doi: 10.5811/westjem.2020.3.44844

Posted on Jul 31, 2020

by Aaron D. Dora-Laskey, Jason E. Goldstick, Brooke J. Arterberry, Suni Jo Roberts, Rebecca Lee Haffajee, Amy S. Bohnert, Rebecca Cunningham, Patrick M. Carter


Prescription opioid use and driving is a public health concern given the risks associated with drugged driving, but the issue remains under-studied. We examined the prevalence and correlates of driving after taking prescription opioids (DAPO) among adults seeking emergency department (ED) treatment.


Participants (aged 25–60) seeking ED care at a Level I trauma center completed a computerized survey. Validated instruments measured prescription opioid use, driving behaviors, and risky driving. Patients who reported past three-month prescription opioid use and drove at least twice weekly were administered an extended study survey measuring DAPO, depression, pain, and substance use.


Among participants completing the screening survey (n = 756; mean age = 42.8 [standard deviation {SD} = 10.4]), 37.8% reported past three-month prescription opioid use (30.8% of whom used daily), and 14.7% reported past three-month DAPO. Of screened participants, 22.5% (n = 170) were eligible for the extended study survey. Unadjusted analyses demonstrated that participants reporting DAPO were more likely to use opioids daily (51.1% vs 15.9%) and had higher rates of opioid misuse (mean Current Opioid Misuse Measure score 3.4 [SD = 3.8] vs 1.1 [SD = 2.1]) chronic pain (80.7% vs 42.7%), and driving after marijuana or alcohol use (mean intoxicated driving score 2.1 [SD = 1.3] vs 0.3 [SD = 0.8]) compared to patients not reporting DAPO (all p<0.001). Adjusting for age, gender, employment, and insurance in a logistic regression model, participants reporting DAPO were more likely to report a chronic pain diagnosis (odds ratio [OR] = 3.77, 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.55–9.17), daily opioid use (OR = 3.81, 95% CI, 1.64–8.85), and higher levels of intoxicated driving (OR = 1.62, 95% CI,1.07–2.45). Alcohol and marijuana use, depression, and opioid misuse were not associated with DAPO in adjusted analyses.


Nearly one in six adult patients seeking ED care reported DAPO. The ED may bean important site for interventions addressing opioid-related drugged driving.

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