Antidepressants, sleeping pills and anxiety drugs may increase driving risk

September 12, 2012

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.

Explore further: Research shows older Australians overprescribed psychotropic drugs

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

Related Stories

Research shows older Australians overprescribed psychotropic drugs

August 19, 2011
(Medical Xpress) -- University of Queensland researchers have called for urgent action following a study that reveals older Australians are being over prescribed psychotropic drugs, resulting in serious safety and cost concerns. ...

Detection and treatment for hepatic encephalopathy prevents car accidents, reduces costs

March 27, 2012
A late stage liver condition, known as minimal hepatic encephalopathy (MHE), is associated with impaired driving skills and greater risk of motor vehicle accidents. Cost analysis of management strategies for detection and ...

Marijuana use may double the risk of accidents for drivers

October 6, 2011
Over 10 million people age 12 or older are estimated to have driven under the influence of illicit drugs in the prior year, according to a 2009 National Survey on Drug Use and Health. While marijuana is the most commonly ...

Recommended for you

Mind-body therapies immediately reduce unmanageable pain in hospital patients

July 25, 2017
Mindfulness training and hypnotic suggestion significantly reduced acute pain experienced by hospital patients, according to a new study published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine.

Study suggests ending opioid epidemic will take years

July 20, 2017
The question of how to stem the nation's opioid epidemic now has a major detailed response. A new study chaired by University of Virginia School of Law Professor Richard Bonnie provides extensive recommendations for curbing ...

Team-based model reduces prescription opioid use among patients with chronic pain by 40 percent

July 17, 2017
A new, team-based, primary care model is decreasing prescription opioid use among patients with chronic pain by 40 percent, according to a new study out of Boston Medical Center's Grayken Center for Addiction Medicine, which ...

Private clinics' peddling of unproven stem cell treatments is unsafe and unethical

July 7, 2017
Stem cell science is an area of medical research that continues to offer great promise. But as this week's paper in Science Translational Medicine highlights, a growing number of clinics around the globe, including in Australia, ...

Popular heartburn drugs linked to higher death risk

July 4, 2017
Popular heartburn drugs called proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) have been linked to a variety of health problems, including serious kidney damage, bone fractures and dementia. Now, a new study from Washington University School ...

Most reproductive-age women using opioids also use another substance

June 30, 2017
The majority of reproductive-age and pregnant women who use opioids for non-medical purposes also use at least one other substance, ranging from nicotine or alcohol to cocaine, according to a University of Pittsburgh Graduate ...

1 comment

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.