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Increased accident risk with psychoactive drugs

By Spucky, Feb 22, 2011 | | |
  1. Spucky
    Increased accident risk with psychoactive drugs

    Patients taking psychoactive drugs are at increased risk of causing and being involved in traffic accidents, a systematic review and meta-analysis shows.

    Australian researchers examined 90 studies of three classes of psychoactive drugs – benzodiazepines and non-benzodiazepine hypnotics, antidepressants and opioids – and the risk of traffic accidents.
    Two meta-analyses showed that benzodiazepines led to a 60-80% increase in the risk of traffic accidents and a 40% increase in ‘accident responsibility’ compared with non-users.

    Elderly drivers on benzodiazepines had a 13% higher risk of accidents than non-users, while drivers under 65 had more than a two-fold risk, ‘a result consistent with age-stratified risk differences reported in cohort studies’. Taking benzodiazepines and consuming alcohol raised the risk to more than seven-fold.

    Anxiolytics and hypnotics both significantly impaired driving performance, and tricyclic antidepressants increased the accident risk in the elderly but not in younger patients.

    Lead researcher Dr Tharaka Dassanayake, a visiting researcher at the University of Newcastle, New South Wales, said: ‘Benzodiazepine use was associated with a significant increase in the risk of traffic accidents and responsibility of drivers for accidents.’

    Drug Safety vol 34 no2, 1 February 2011, pp. 125-156


  1. Phenoxide
    I don't think it comes as a major shock that psychoactives can substantially impair driving ability, particularly in the case of benzodiazepines and other hypnotics (and even moreso with combined with alcohol).

    I think the problem with such a study is they are normalizing the accident rate against that of the general population rather than against people suffering from the same psychological condition but not prescribed psychoactive medication.

    I wonder if a severely depressed person more likely to have a driving accident if their condition is untreated or if they are managing the condition with an antidepressant. Similarly is a person with untreated severe anxiety less likely to have an accident than one on a controlled level of benzodiazepine medication? Perhaps the treatment actually reduces the risk of an accident in those affected individuals?
  2. Spucky
    AW: Increased accident risk with psychoactive drugs

    No it is not a major Surprise but the Reason why i posted it
    is the huge Amount of Studies (90!) that are considered!


    How many depressed People are active Member of the Traffic
    and how many, because of their Depression, don't?
  3. TheFakeBass
    I think it's misleading to equate "antidepressants" with "tricyclic antidepressants", as this article did. Tricyclics are dirty drugs (in a pharmacological sense) that generally have strong antihistaminic (which cause drowsiness) and anticholinergic effects (which cause drowsiness, cognitive impairment, and a host of physical side effects). They're no longer in common use because newer antidepressants have better side effect profiles and/or better prognosis in overdose.

    When I read this article, this study on PubMed immediately came to mind:
    For those who are too lazy to look, it shows that depressed patients performed better in computerized tests related to driving skills after 14 weeks of taking reboxetine or mirtazapine, two newer antidepressants. (Which I found somewhat surprising, given that mirtazapine is a strong antihistamine.)
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