Alcohol a Bigger Factor Than Drug Use in Accidents

Alcohol a Bigger Factor Than Drug Use in Accidents
Posted by FoM on December 20, 1999 at 10:09:46 PT
By Tom Greenwood, The Detroit News
Source: Detroit News
The caller -- who neglected to leave his name -- was pretty adamant about the influence alcohol played in vehicle crashes in Michigan. It was his contention that drugs played just as big a part, if you not bigger, than alcohol. 
The caller said that there were no statistics available to compare and contrast drug and drunken driving and that the Michigan State Police usually blended drug and drunken driving into the same statistics. And he was right ... but only up to a point. Sgt. Bob Betzing of the alcohol enforcement section of the Michigan State Police, confirmed that there are no statistics available on driving under the influence of drugs, and that in some cases, drug abuse while driving is blended into drunken driving statistics. But Betzing was adamant that alcohol, and not drugs, is by far the No. 1 killer on our roads today. "Alcohol is a much bigger problem out there than drugs," Betzing said. "For one thing, the availability of alcohol is much easier than drugs. There's a lot of drugs out there, but it's not in the same ballpark as alcohol." Betzing said some of the drug and alcohol charges are folded into the same report. "If a person is using drugs and alcohol, basically the charge will be for alcohol if they're over the legal limit," Betzing said. "But if they have all the indications of alcohol intoxication, but nothing comes up on the preliminary breath test, we will request a drug test and charge them with operating a vehicle while under the influence of drugs." According to Betzing, there is no quick and easy test for drugs for officers out on the road. "It's a lot more complicated," Betzing said. "The normal procedure is to pull someone over if they're driving badly and test them for alcohol. If no alcohol is present, but their driving matches that of a drunk driver, we'll request a blood test. "Under our implied consent law, they must agree to the test or lose their license." Betzing said the state police will begin to keep separate statistics on drug and alcohol abuse among drivers starting in 2000. Once a blood sample has been taken, it's turned over to the state police laboratory for testing, according to state police toxicologist Felix Adatsi. "Basically, we see two different groups of drugs in the blood we test," Adatsi said. "Drugs of abuse and prescription drugs. The No. 1 drug of abuse is marijuana, then cocaine. The No. 1 drug of abuse in both Wayne and Genesee counties is cocaine. Now and then, we see morphine and methadone. "Methadone is unusual in that it crosses the line both as a drug of abuse and as a prescription drug." Adatsi said that a group of drugs known as benzodiazepines makes up the majority of drugs seen for prescription abuse. "This is a class of prescription drugs that are depressants that affect the central nervous system," Adatsi said. "As a class, they reduce stress and anxiety and have a calming effect on the individual as well as relaxing the muscles." Drugs in the benzodiazepine category include Valium, Xanax, Ativan and Librium. "We also see other prescription drugs such as Soma, Prozac and Zoloft," Adatsi said. "These also reduce stress and act as muscle relaxants." After the benzodiazepine, Adatsi's tests turn up opiates, such as Tylenol with codeine and morphine. Then comes cough syrups. "As you can imagine, these drugs have a serious effect on a person's ability to safely operate a motor vehicle," Adatsi said. "People should be aware of this before they get behind the wheel."Tom Greenwood has been driving Metro Detroit freeways for 34 years and racks up about 20,000 miles a year. Look for him in his white '95 Ford Windstar van. His column appears Monday through Friday. You can reach him at: (313) 222-2023 or at: commuter mailto:commuter detnews.comPublished: December 20, 1999Copyright 1999, The Detroit News
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Comment #3 posted by kaptinemo on December 24, 1999
 at 13:37:03 PT
As I was trying to write my first draft of this, some idiot who 'drank his dinner' had wrapped his car around a telephone pole, and caused a sudden but short power outage, cutting me off in mid-sentence. How's that for synchronicity?As the cop above had stated, it's alcohol, freely available, violence inciting, liver-and-braincell destroying, family obliterating alcohol which is touted on TV sports events that is the #1 killer. But cannabis, which has no toxicity level, and is rarely if ever a factor in promulgating violence, is sanctioned against. Of course, it makes no sense... unless you look at it from a certain, albeit suspicious, point of view. Let's say you wanted to be able to control your population, a la Huxley's 'Brave New World'. Despite the violence aspect, alcohol is perfect; it dulls the wits, making for a population that's unlikely to rebel effectively. Let's say you also wanted to ensure that, despite modern medical treatments, that your workers didn't live too long after retiring - you don't want to fork out too much in funds on 'useless mouths', as Stalin once put it. And, if the nature of the economy changes, from industry (which requires a lot of unskilled and semi-skilled labor) to the 'post-industrial' economy (which requires fewer but more highly skilled workers) if a lot of the useless mouths kill themselves off, so much the better. Alcohol does a great job of this. Car accidents, industrial accidents, murders, cirrhosis, etc. And the genius is, the fools pay for the means of their own destruction. Paranoid? You betcha! But the government is paranoid about *us* or it wouldn't be trying to regulate free speech on the Internet. So, maybe, a litle paranoia on our part is justified, after all?
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Comment #2 posted by FoM on December 20, 1999 at 21:02:30 PT
I Agree!
Thanks Doc-Hawk! I wish they would see like we see. We are good people and care about others and I just wish they would try to understand that just because something isn't plesant to think about doesn't mean it should be against the law. We have learned over years to accept many situations that were unpleasant to us and it's time America grows up and sees the way it really is, and deal with it, thru the eyes of love, instead of discust or even hate.Peace, FoM!
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Comment #1 posted by Doc-Hawk on December 20, 1999 at 18:47:23 PT:
I guess the real question has to do with IMPAIRMENT. I suspect it is going to be a real issue to be faced with law enforcement if any form of legalization is to be enacted.The problem now, as I understand it, is that there is no accurate or reliable way to determine the current state of impairment in a cannabis user. The standard urine test looks for certain metabolites, and an argument could be made that a high level of these metabolites might indicate recent ingestion. Still, the argument is full of holes, esp. if the person acts normal. The test only gives a relative concentration of metabolite, and this can vary greatly from the first urine of the day, to a sample taken after a large quantity of diuretic liquid (beer or coffee?.) These same metabolites can be found for several days up to several weeks after consumption. Further, the warnings for Marinol (pure THC) are not prohibitive against driving. Instead they warn the patient about "getting used to" Marinol's effects before attempting to drive while taking Marinol. While there are newer tests under development which claim to test for very recent consumption of cannabis, they are still unproven. At least the technology used with a REAL urinalysis has a very high degree of accuracy. (Done properly, the test consists of two parts, a cheap EMIT style screen followed by a more expensive GC/MS confirmation performed on another portion of the same sample.) With alcohol, a breathalyzer gives a reasonably accurate reading of your current blood alcohol reading and, by extension, your level of impairment. Yes, I know that some folks can function quite well at levels considered by law to be impaired, but the law was written for the masses and serves fairly well.Unfortunately, law enforcement will grasp upon ANY straw to prosecute illegal drug users and in some areas, any positive test is considered to be against the law, even if it was caused by smoking a joint several days before. No proof (or even hint) of impairment is considered.As usual, Dick Cowan at hits the nail on the head in the following link (second story in the article): . Another interesting commentary is located at: .Perhaps it is time to implement "Operation Smokescreen." (Again Dick Cowan at: . If everyone who opposed the War on Drugs as it is persecuted in this country were to purchase some legal "herbal smoking mixture" with a powerful aroma, and consumed it in obvious home-rolled cigarettes, the cops would go nuts. (Reminds me of the time we got a pound of pepper on the barracks floor prior to the arrival of the dope dog. Drove that sucker nuts.) When the cops try to prove that you possessed an unlawful substance, they would only prove their incompetence. Just put a "doobie" behind your ear before entering a concert and watch. Wednesday night I am going to see Government Mule, etc. and intend to have a "large" time with the local gestapo.I will not be impaired...but they just might be.Doc
Spotlight on Medical Marijuana
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