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Drugs for Anxiety, Insomnia and Depression Could Hamper Driving Skills: Study

Update Date: Sep 13, 2012 04:26 AM EDT

A new study suggests that people who take psychotropic drug medications are at an increased risk of accidents while driving.

Psychotropic drugs are prescribed to anxiety, depression and insomnia patients. The research suggests that these patients, taking such drugs, may have an increased risk of being involved in motor vehicle accidents as psychotropic drugs affect brain function and can impair a person's ability to control his/her vehicle.

The researchers, in order to understand how the wider spectrum of psychotropic drugs affects the driving ability, compared the records of drug use in two groups of people from the Taiwanese national health insurance programme.

While the first group included 5,183 people involved in motor vehicle accidents, the second group included 31,093 people of around the same age group and gender with no record of being involved in motor vehicle accidents.

The analysis of the data revealed that those who met with accidents were more likely to be on psychotropic drugs, irrespective of the duration for which they had been taking the drugs. They could be on the drug for a day, a week or a month.

This suggested that the risk associated with benzodiazepines (used to treat anxiety and insomnia) is also true for Z-drugs and antidepressants. However, antipsychotics were not associated with an increased risk of motor vehicle accidents, even among those taking higher doses, Medical Xpress reported.

"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 findings of the research add evidence to previous reports that assessed the risk associated with individual psychotropic drugs.

The findings also revealed that dosage of medicines and risk of accidents while driving are directly proportional to each other.

"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 researchers, based on the findings of the study, ask doctors to consider advising patients not to drive while on these drugs.

The authors do not recommend patients to stop drugs, but if concerned, they are advised to consult their doctor.

The study was published in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology.

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