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Psych, Sleep Meds May Affect Driving

WEDNESDAY, Sept. 12 (HealthDay News) -- People who take medication for anxiety, depression or insomnia may be at greater risk of having a car accident than drivers not taking psychotropic drugs, according to a new study.

Noting that these drugs alter brain functioning and could impair driving ability, researchers from Taiwan said doctors should think about advising patients not to drive while taking these medications.

"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 the study's lead researcher, Hui-Ju Tsai, who is based at the National Health Research Institutes in Zhunan.

In conducting the study, the researchers compared drug use in nearly 5,200 people involved in major car accidents with that of more than 31,000 similar people with no record of serious accidents.

The study, published Sept. 13 in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology, found the people involved in car accidents were more likely to have been taking psychotropic drugs for any length of time.

Previous research has shown a link between certain drugs used to treat anxiety and insomnia, known as benzodiazepines, and car crashes. In this study, the researchers also examined the effects of antidepressants, antipsychotics and newer medications used to treat insomnia, known as Z-drugs.

The researchers said the link between benzodiazepines and car accidents extends to both Z-drugs and antidepressants. They noted, however, even high doses of antipsychotics were not associated with an increased risk of a serious car accidents.

"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," Tsai said in a journal news release.

The researchers added their findings suggest higher dosages of these drugs increase accident risk.

The study's authors concluded that anyone on these drugs who is concerned about the increased risk for car accidents should continue to take their medication and consult their doctor.

Although the research shows an association between psychotropic drug use and car accidents, it does not establish a cause-and-effect relationship.

More information

The U.S. National Institutes of Health provides more information on psychotropic drugs.

-- Mary Elizabeth Dallas

SOURCE: British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology, news release, Sept. 12, 2012

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