Opiates Involved in Fatal Pennsylvania AmTrak Crash

On Tuesday, October 10, 2017, the opioid crisis came into the public eye more clearly. House Democrats asked Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao to require testing for four prescription opioids in transportation workers, like bus and truck drivers and railroad operators. 

Deadly AmTrak Crashes

Last year, two Amtrak crashes brought the war on drugs and opioid crisis into perspective for officials. In one case, two maintenance workers were using opioids when they were struck and killed south of Philadelphia by a passenger train whose engineer had marijuana in his system. In the other, an AmTrak train carrying 330 passengers and seven crew members crash into a backhoe in Chester, PA. The crash killed two workers, one had cocaine in his system, the other had taken unprescribed oxycodone, and the injured crew head had marijuana in his system.

No Steps Taken On Testing Rule

Over 52,000 people in America died of drug overdoses last year. As the Obama administration was leaving office in January, they proposed for the Department of Transportation to test for the prescription opioids, hydrocodone, hydromorphone, oxymorphone, and oxycodone. However, ten months later and the rule is left floundering around by the current administration. The CDC expects that 71,000 individuals will die from overdoses this year.

Increase in DOT Drug Use

The DOT drug tests around seven million workers who hold commercial driver’s licenses, railroad and transit workers, as well as the US Coast Guard. In 2015, random tests of railway workers, including engineers, train crew, and dispatchers, found overall drug use had soared by 43 percent. The popularity of illegal prescription drugs and heroin has some analysts suggesting that efforts to crack down on prescriptions have encouraged addicts to turn to heroin.

While a big crackdown on prescription opioids could improve the epidemic, it could also cause more addicts to turn towards heroin and other street drugs instead. However, if the crisis is never addressed at all, the number of overdoses and deaths will continue to rise each year.

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