Medication Use and Traffic Accidents

People who use medications, especially psychotropic medications, seem to be at higher risk of getting into a traffic accident. One study looked at data they got from French data bases along with police reports and police databases involving crashes that caused an injury. The study compared 34,896 responsible drivers along with 37,789 irresponsible drivers. They wanted to see if there was any effect of antidepressant medication when it came to getting in a traffic accident. A total of 72,685 drivers were included in the July 2005 through May 2008 study.

A total of 4 percent or 2,936 drivers had taken at least one antidepressant medication on the day of the traffic accident. There was a positive correlation between taking antidepressants and being responsible for the accident occurring. In fact, they were 1.34 times more likely to be the cause of the accident. The actual prescription did not seem to matter; however, the accident seemed to be more likely if the person had just initiated the antidepressant medication. These people were 1.49 times more likely to have caused a traffic accident.

After a recent change in antidepressant medication, traffic accidents were 1.32 times more likely to cause a traffic accident. These researchers recommended that both prescribers and patients be notified about the increased risk of traffic accidents if the person has just started the treatment course or if the medication is changed from another medication.

Another study out of the Netherlands involved the use of psychotropic medications and getting into a traffic accident. They gathered their data from pharmacy prescription data, driver’s license data, and traffic accident information. The cases collected were those that involved an injury accident between the years 2000 and 2007. The control group were those licensed drivers who had no traffic accident during the same period of time.

The study evaluated the use of antipsychotics, hypnotics, anxiolytics and sedatives and their risk of causing a traffic accident. Antidepressants were also studied, including older antidepressants and SSRI medications. The study also looked at the driver’s age, their gender, the use of alcohol and the medication half life.

A total of 3,963 cases were studied along with 18,828 controls. There was a significant risk of causing a traffic accident if a person was taking an anxiolytic at the time of the traffic accident. In fact, the odds ratio was 1.54. The same was true if the person took an SSRI medication. The odds ratio was 2.03. There was a strong relationship between traffic accidents and those who used anxiolytics chronically. Females and young drivers were at risk as well as those who were chronically on SSRI medication. Middle aged users were at higher risk as were those who took intermediate half life hypnotic medication.

These studies both show a relationship between psychotropic medication and the causation of traffic accidents. Doctors need to remind patients of their added risk so they can make sure not to take too much medication and so they can try to drive when the medication isn’t high in the system.

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