Does Your Medication Make You a Worse Driver?

From Drugs.com - November 1, 2017

Does Your Medication Make You a Worse Driver?

WEDNESDAY, Nov. 1, 2017 -- Is that sleeping pill you took last night making it tougher for you to drive in the daytime? What about a heart medication? Or a new antidepressant?

New research shows that many people taking prescription drugs are not aware that their meds could impair their ability to drive.

"Most are aware of the potential dangerous side effects of sedatives and narcotics, but other medications -- such as some antihistamines, some antidepressants, some blood pressure medications, muscle relaxants and even stimulants -- may affect driving ability," noted Dr. Alan Mensch, who reviewed the study findings.

The findings have both medical and legal implications, added Mensch, who's medical director at Plainview Hospital in New York.

"Not commonly appreciated is that a DUI (driving under the influence) charge may not only involve alcohol or illegal substances. Drivers can also be charged with DUI related to prescription, as well as over-the-counter medications," Mensch noted.

The new study was led by Robin Pollini, of the Injury Control Research Center at West Virginia University.

Reporting Nov. 1 in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, her team tracked 2013-2014 data from the National Roadside Survey. That survey asked more than 7,400 drivers at 60 sites across the United States about their current medication use.

Nearly 20 percent of the drivers reported recent use of a prescription medication that could have affected their ability to drive safely.

Many said they were not aware of this possible side effect, however, even though the medications had warnings on labels and the patients should have received warnings from their doctor or pharmacist.

For example, 14 percent of people taking a sedative said they had not either read a warning label or been advised by their doctor or pharmacist about driving risks while on the medication.

The same was true for 15 percent of those taking a narcotic, 42 percent of those taking a stimulant and 37 percent of those taking an antidepressant, the study found.

According to Pollini's team, it's unclear if the patients never received a warning or if they simply forgot about a warning they had received.


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