Antidepressants, sleeping pills and anxiety drugs may increase driving risk

Drugs prescribed to treat anxiety, depression and insomnia may increase patients' risk of being involved in motor vehicle accidents, according to a recent study, published in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology. Based on the findings, the researchers suggested doctors should consider advising patients not to drive while taking these drugs.

Psychotropic drugs affect the way the brain functions and can impair a driver's ability to control their vehicle. Research on the links between psychotropic medication and driving accidents has focused on benzodiazepines, which have been used to treat anxiety and . Perhaps the best known of these drugs is diazepam. Newer Z-drugs, used to treat insomnia, have received less attention, as have antidepressants and antipsychotics.

To understand the effects of a wider spectrum of psychotropic drugs on driving accidents, the authors compared drug use in two groups of people identified using medical records from the Taiwanese national health insurance programme. The first group included 5,183 people involved in . The second group included 31,093 people, matched for age, gender and the year of vehicle accidents, who had no record of being involved in motor vehicle accidents. In general, those involved in accidents were more likely to have been taking psychotropic drugs, whether they had been taking them for one month, one week or one day.

The results suggest that the increased risk associated with is mirrored in both Z-drugs and antidepressants. However, antipsychotics were not associated with an increased risk of motor vehicle accidents, even among those taking higher doses.

"Our findings underscore that people taking these psychotropic drugs should pay increased attention to their driving performance in order to prevent motor vehicle accidents," said lead researcher, Hui-Ju Tsai, who is based at the National Health Research Institutes in Zhunan, Taiwan. "Doctors and pharmacists should choose safer treatments, provide their patients with accurate information and consider advising them not to drive while taking certain psychotropic medications."

The research strengthens the findings of previous reports that have assessed the risk associated with individual . It also provides more evidence on the link between dose and driving performance, showing that higher doses are associated with a higher risk of an accident. "Our data demonstrated significant dose effects for antidepressants, benzodiazepine and Z-drugs," said Tsai. "This suggests that taking a higher dosage poses a greater danger to those intending to drive."

The authors recommend that patients do not stop taking their medication, but if concerned should consult their doctor.

More information: Chia-Ming Chang, Erin Chia-Hsuan Wu, Chuan-Yu Chen, Kuan-Yi Wu, Hsin-Yi Liang, Yeuk-Lun Chau, Chi-Shin Wu, Keh-Ming Lin, Hui-Ju Tsai; Psychotropic Drugs and Risk of Motor Vehicle Accidents: a Population-based Case-Control Study; British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology; DOI: 10.1111/j.1365-2125.2012.04410.x

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Danish children at risk from psychotropic medicines

Jun 22, 2010

Between 1998 and 2007, psychotropic medications were associated with 429 adverse drug reactions (ADRs) in children under 17 in Denmark. Researchers writing in the open access journal BMC Research Notes found that more than h ...

Recommended for you

US approves new, hard-to-abuse hydrocodone pill (Update)

Nov 20, 2014

U.S. government health regulators on Thursday approved the first hard-to-abuse version of the painkiller hydrocodone, offering an alternative to a similar medication that has been widely criticized for lacking ...

Soaring generic drug prices draw Senate scrutiny

Nov 20, 2014

Some low-cost generic drugs that have helped restrain health care costs for decades are seeing unexpected price spikes of up to 8,000 percent, prompting a backlash from patients, pharmacists and now Washington ...

Only half of patients take their medications as prescribed

Nov 20, 2014

The cost of patients not taking their medications as prescribed can be substantial in terms of their health. Although a large amount of research evidence has tried to address this problem, there are no well-established ...

User comments

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

PeterD
1 / 5 (1) Sep 16, 2012
Amazing! Researchers have again figured out something what anyone with a brain has known forever.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.