Even small doses of opioids increase risk of road crashes, research finds

Drivers who have taken even a small dose of opioid painkillers have an increased risk of being injured in a car accident, a new study has found.

Among adult drivers prescribed opioids, a daily dose exceeding only 20 mg morphine (or equivalent) was associated with between a 21 per cent and 42 per cent increased risk of road trauma requiring a visit to an emergency department, the study found.

The study, published today in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine, was lead by Tara Gomes, a scientist at the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Studies. Gomes recently joined the Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute of St. Michael's Hospital.

Gomes said it was the first study of its kind to demonstrate a relationship between the dose of opioid analgesics and risk of road trauma.

The study examined 549,878 patients ages 18 to 64 who received at least one publicly funded prescription for an opioid between April 1, 2003, and March 31, 2011, in Ontario. Opioids are drugs such as morphine, codeine or used to relieve moderate to severe pain.

Road trauma and the toxic effects of are two of the leading causes of in North America.

"Among drivers prescribed opioids, a significant relationship exists between the dose of opioid prescribed and risk of road trauma," said Gomes.

High opioid doses (between 100-199 mg of morphine or equivalent) were associated with a 42 per cent increased risk of road trauma relative to low doses.

"Injury and death resulting from have significant public health and ," Gomes said. "These findings could have important implications for clinicians when escalating patients to high opioid doses, and to policy makers tasked with educating the public on the potential risks of opioid medications."

Clinical guidelines recommend about 180-200 mg of or the equivalent as "upper dose thresholds."

Gomes is also the lead scientist for the Ontario Drug Policy Research Network, a province-wide network of researchers who provide timely, high-quality advice for decision-makers.

Related Stories

Opioid abuse linked to mood and anxiety disorders

Dec 13, 2011

Individuals suffering from mood and anxiety disorders such as bipolar, panic disorder and major depressive disorder may be more likely to abuse opioids, according to a new study led by researchers from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg ...

New guidelines for prescribing opioid pain drugs published

Feb 10, 2009

A prestigious panel of pain-management experts representing the American Pain Society (APS) www.ampainsoc.org and the American Academy of Pain Medicine (AAPM) has published the first comprehensive clinical practice guidel ...

Recommended for you

WHO: Millions of Ebola vaccine doses ready in 2015

Oct 24, 2014

The World Health Organization says millions of doses of two experimental Ebola vaccines could be ready for use in 2015 and five more experimental vaccines will start being tested in March.

Added benefit of vedolizumab is not proven

Oct 23, 2014

Vedolizumab (trade name Entyvio) has been approved since May 2014 for patients with moderately to severely active Crohn disease or ulcerative colitis. In an early benefit assessment pursuant to the Act on the Reform of the ...

Seaweed menace may yield new medicines

Oct 22, 2014

An invasive seaweed clogging up British coasts could be a blessing in disguise. University of Greenwich scientists have won a cash award to turn it into valuable compounds which can lead to new, life-saving drugs.

User comments