Driving while medicated: antidepressants, sleeping pills, anxiety drugs increase driving risk

Again Science Daily reports on the fact that psychotropic drugs impede people’s capacity to drive safely. The classes of drugs being talked about here are SSRI and SNRI antidepressants, benzodiazepines, and the z-drugs like Ambien and Lunesta. I know from having taken them that antipsychotics too are egregiously guilty for making people NOT ALERT. I don’t think this should surprise anyone as they are also call MAJOR tranquilizers.  This is something I’ve written about several times because people on these medications are rarely aware or honest about how impaired they are on these medications. I know that even though I knew I was impaired the thought of not being able to drive was too frightening for me to deal with the situation responsibly.

Antidepressants, Sleeping Pills and Anxiety Drugs May Increase Driving Risk

Drugs prescribed to treat anxiety, depression and insomnia may increase patients’ risk of being involved in motor vehicle accidents, according to a recent study, published in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology. Based on the findings, the researchers suggested doctors should consider advising patients not to drive while taking these drugs.

Psychotropic drugs affect the way the brain functions and can impair a driver’s ability to control their vehicle. Research on the links between psychotropic medication and driving accidents has focused on benzodiazepines, which have been used to treat anxiety and insomnia. Perhaps the best known of these drugs is diazepam. Newer Z-drugs, used to treat insomnia, have received less attention, as have antidepressants and antipsychotics. (continue reading)

So I’ve brought this topic up a couple of times on this blog so I’m just recycling what I wrote already below.

The first post is from a couple of years ago:

This is very controversial topic that people on meds don’t want to consider. Are you a safe driver? I WAS NOT! I even told my doctor I was dangerous. You know what his response was? “Don’t say that to me again or I’ll be forced to take away your license.”

I actually chose to stop driving after I hit a parked car once when I was feeling rather hazy. That wasn’t until I was in withdrawals though and so my impairment actually got quite a lot worse.  The fact is I shouldn’t have been driving for a good 15 years or more while on “medications.” One more reason I’m very glad I’m finally free of them. This is an issue that most people are simply not willing to be honest about and it’s a serious problem.

Not everyone on medications are at risk for driving badly, I’m not saying that. However I know I was totally dangerous but because I had to get to work and live my life I made the decision to drive. I lived in fear that I would hurt someone, but generally had it pretty well pushed back in my mind. I often found myself swerving and doing other dangerous things because I was foggy headed and couldn’t concentrate. Really. I don’t imagine I was alone in that experience. I also imagine a good number of people aren’t as aware as I was…others simply might not admit it. And how does one really know? By definition if one is impaired they might simply not know.

Drivers on Prescription Drugs Are Hard to Convict – NYTimes.com — The driver could not keep her eyes open during an interview with investigators, according to the complaint against her, and her speech was slow and slurred. But the driver told the police that she had not been drinking; instead, the complaint said, she had taken several prescription medications, including a sedative and a muscle relaxant. — She was charged with vehicular manslaughter and driving under the influence of drugs — an increasingly common offense, law enforcement officials say, at a time when drunken-driving deaths are dropping and when prescriptions for narcotic painkillers, anti-anxiety medications, sleep aids and other powerful drugs are rampant. read the rest

And an earlier post from 2008 where I say similar things here:

Here is an article that talks about a study that demonstrates that antidepressants make people less safe drivers.

A new study suggests people taking prescription antidepressants may drive worse than people who aren’t taking such drugs, and depressed people on antidepressants have even more trouble concentrating and reacting behind the wheel. (continue reading)

The sad part? Other psych meds impair you even more. I was an accident waiting to happen for many years. Thank god I never hurt anyone.

This is something people who take meds want to stay the hell away from. I understand that completely. Not being able to drive is tantamount to losing freedom.

On the other hand understanding all the negative ways meds impede us is extremely important.

In an email group it was pointed out that many drugs other than psych meds can cause impairment while driving. Absolutely true…but we need to take responsibility for what we put in OUR bodies.

I’ll add that the biggest reason this is a sore spot for me is because for years as my doctor jacked up my meds to the point I literally stumbled about at times, I told him it was dangerous for me to drive. I did not feel safe driving to work, especially in the mornings as I took all my multiple sedating meds at night and was never fully awake in the morning.

Perhaps this was the biggest way my doctor failed me and society. He refused to listen to my pleas that I did not feel safe and didn’t think I should be working if I could not drive. And he refused to consider the fact that the drugs he was prescribing were meaningfully disabling me even then and put others at risk by allowing me to stay on the road.

About Monica Cassani

Author/Editor Beyond Meds: Everything Matters