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Cocaine danger on the road.

Cocaine danger on the road

Nearly one out of four New York City drivers aged 16 to 45 who died in motor vehicle accidents during three years in the mid-1980s had used cocaine within 48 hours of their death, a research team reports. Despite that "fairly remarkable" finding, the scientists say their study may underestimate the true scope of cocainerelated traffic fatalities in New York City and perhaps in other urban areas, such as Miami and Los Angeles, where cocaine use seems endemic.

Peter M. Marzuk and J. John Mann of the Cornell University Medical College in New York City and four colleagues studied New York City medical examiner records for 643 drivers and passengers of all ages involved in fatal accidents from 1984 to 1987. They found the highest rates of cocaine use among younger age groups, but determined overall that 18.2 percent of the accident victims studied showed cocaine or its principal metabolite in blood or urine samples tested during autopsies. In 10 percent of the cases studied, medical examiners had found both cocaine and alcohol in blood and urine samples, the researchers report in the Jan. 12 JOURNAL OF THE AMERICAN MEDICAL ASSICIATION.

Mann, now at the University of Pittsburgh, suspects cocaine by itself compromises driving ability but says future studies must prove that link. He notes, for example, that cocaine users are more aggressive and take greater risks soon after getting high. However, one previous study found no adverse effects on vigilance and other driving skills soon after cocaine use.

Mann thinks the days following cocaine administration may also pose a risk for users and their passengers. During that period, cocaine users often drink alcohol or take other sedatives to blunt cocaine-induced anxiety--a pattern suggesting alcohol may play some role in traffic fatalities involving cocaine users, Mann says.
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Title Annotation:cocaine and motor vehicle accidents in New York City
Publication:Science News
Date:Jan 13, 1990
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