(HealthDay News) — Fatally injured drivers increasingly test positive for drugs, especially marijuana, according to a study published online January 29 in the American Journal of Epidemiology.

Joanne E. Brady and Guohua Li, MD, DrPH, from the Columbia University Medical Center in New York City, utilized data from the Fatality Analysis Reporting System for 1999–2010 to identify trends involving the presence of alcohol and other drugs in drivers who were killed within one hour of a motor vehicle crash. Data from six US states that routinely perform toxicological testing on drivers involved in such crashes (California, Hawaii, Illinois, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and West Virginia) were used in the study.

The researchers found that, of the 23,591 drivers studied, 39.7% tested positive for alcohol and 24.8% tested positive for other drugs. The prevalence of positive results for non-alcohol drugs rose from 16.6%  in 1999 to 28.3 in 2010 (P<0.0001). All age groups and both sexes experienced the increase in prevalence of non-alcohol drugs. Over the study period, the prevalence of positive results for alcohol remained stable. Cannabinol was the most commonly detected non-alcohol drug, the prevalence of which increased from 4.2% in 1999 to 12.2% in 2010 (P<0.0001).

“These results indicate that non-alcohol drugs, particularly marijuana, are increasingly detected in fatally injured drivers,” the authors write.

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