Driving while medicated: psychiatric drugs increase driving risk

This is a repost and a public service announcement. I think this cannot be appreciated enough and it’s a very difficult topic for folks on any sort of mind altering medication which are certainly not limited to psychiatric drugs. 

Again Science Daily reports on the fact that psychotropic drugs impede people’s capacity to drive safely. The classes of drugs being discussed here are SSRI and SNRI antidepressants, benzodiazepines, and the z-drugs like Ambien and Lunesta. I know from having taken them that neuroleptics (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. All psych drugs that effect mood and affect can dull response time, so that includes those drugs that get called mood stabilizers too.  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, though I did choose to stop driving towards the end of my withdrawal as I became more and more aware of the risk I posed.

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)

And more from other posts:

cautionThe 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 withdrawal though and so my impairment actually got quite a lot worse as I also became more aware.  The fact is I shouldn’t have been driving for a good 15 years or more while on psych drugs. 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, nor do I believe that. However I know I was not a safe driver and it wasn’t from lack of interest. I was simply not alert enough to be safe. However, because I had to get to work and live my life I made the (semi-unconscious) decision to drive. I had an ongoing 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 and do not even know that they are impaired…others simply might not be able to admit it. And how does one really know? By definition if one is impaired they might simply not know, right?

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. Being that I was on a cocktail of 5 different sedating drugs, I was an accident waiting to happen for many years. Thank god I never hurt anyone. Really. I’m very grateful for that.

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 when we make choices for treatment.

In an email group it was pointed out that many drugs other than psych meds can cause impairment while driving. Absolutely true and those drugs should be carefully considered as well…and we need to take responsibility for what we put in OUR bodies. If it’s psych drugs then we need to take into consideration all the many ways they impact our lives.

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.

I don’t really blame my doctor anymore…it’s clear to me now we were both involved in this deceit now. Today I take responsibility for my choices. I’ve learned from the past.

Please do not attempt to discontinue psych drugs without first very carefully educating yourself on the risks involved so that you might minimize the chances of developing grave iatrogenic illness if you decide to withdraw: Psychiatric drug withdrawal and protracted withdrawal syndrome round-up


Ten Myths about Depression and Psycho-Pharmacology

mythsFrom David Healy MDs article: Psychiatry Gone Astray

Ten Myths about Depression and Psycho-Pharmacology:

Myth 1: Your disease is caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain

Myth 2: It’s no problem to stop treatment with antidepressants

Myth 3: Psychotropic Drugs for Mental Illness are like Insulin for Diabetes

Myth 4: Psychotropic drugs reduce the number of chronically ill patients

Myth 5: Happy pills do not cause suicide in children and adolescents

Myth 6: Happy pills have no side effects

Myth 7: Happy pills are not addictive

Myth 8: The prevalence of depression has increased a lot

Myth 9: The main problem is not overtreatment, but undertreatment

Myth 10: Antipsychotics prevent brain damage

Read the explanation of each myth at David Healy MDs website: Psychiatry Gone Astray

More info from Beyond Meds: Chemical imbalance myth and biopsychiatry links — has a collection of links that speak particularly to the idea that mental illness is NOT best explained via a chemical imbalance in the brain


Six Problems with Psychiatric Diagnosis for Children

By Marilyn Wedge

author of Pills Are Not for Preschoolers: A Drug-Free Approach for Troubled Kids (covers all age groups not just toddlers)

Six Problems with Psychiatric Diagnosis for Children

Diagnosing children with psychiatric disorders is even more problematic and potentially harmful than diagnosing adults. Here are some of the reasons why.

There is no consensus in the medical community about what behaviors constitute a particular “disorder.” One psychiatrist might diagnosis a child with ADHD, another might say that the same child has oppositional defiant disorder (ODD) and a third doctor may diagnosis this child with bipolar disorder. In 2008, an article in the New York Times Magazine chronicled the story of a little boy who was diagnosed over the course of time first with ODD, then ADHD and finally with bipolar disorder. By the time he was nine, this unfortunate child had taken the anti-psychotic Risperdal, two stimulant drugs for ADHD, followed by Depakote, Lamictal, Abilify and Lithium. None of these powerful and potentially toxic psychotropic drugs helped this child, and in the end his parents sent him to residential treatment on the recommendation of a psychiatrist. Unfortunately, this story is repeated every day in the lives of more than 7 million children in the United States who are drugged far more than their counterparts in other developed countries.

Developmental delays are often “medicalized” and framed as psychiatric disorders. Not all children grow and develop at the same rate. Some children learn to read at five, some at six and some even later. But today’s frantic parents seek out diagnoses and medication for a child who may simply be a late bloomer. Instead of jumping to a psychiatric diagnosis, parents might well find that speech therapy, social skills classes, behavioral therapy, family therapy and/or tutoring can more safely help a child meet the challenges of developmental milestones. Continue reading “Six Problems with Psychiatric Diagnosis for Children”

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