Researchers at the University of British Columbia have found prescribed medications used to treat mental illness, pain and sleep disorders are associated with increased road collisions.
Antipsychotics, benzodiazepines and high-potency opioids pose a crash risk to drivers, according to results of a study led by Dr. Jeff Brubacher.
Data published this week in The Lancet Public Health journal shows drivers prescribed sedating antipsychotics have a 35 per cent increased risk of causing a car accident.
Crash risks for people prescribed morphine and other high-potency opioids increased by 24 per cent and between 25 to 30 per cent for benzodiazepines like Valium and Xanax.
Brubacher’s team studied prescription records and motor vehicle collisions in a 20-year period, including data from nearly five million B.C. crashes between 1997 and 2016. Researchers couldn’t verify that drivers were taking medications as prescribed.
“Although standard advice recommends not driving if you feel drowsy, a lack of symptoms does not mean drivers are not at risk,” said Brubacher.
“Even if you feel safe to drive, you’re still at a modestly increased risk of up to 35 per cent, which is nothing to ignore.”
The team also assessed whether tolerance to the medication might play a factor in reducing one’s collision risk – finding that people assumed to be taking the medication for less than 30 days have a similar risk as long-time users.
Brubacher said crash risks further increase when drivers take several prescription pills at the same time or mix them with alcohol.
Clinicians should regularly counsel their patients on the risks of driving while on them, he recommended.
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