Taking antidepressants, including Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor (SSRI) Antidepressants, as well as certain sleep aids and other psychotropic drugs, can increase the likelihood that an individual will suffer a motor vehicle accident, according to a new study in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology. Among other things, the study found that taking the SSRI antidepressants, such as Paxil or Prozac, prior to driving increases the risk of a car accident by more than 70%.
Other drugs studied included sleeping pills known as Z-drugs (Ambien, Sonata and Lunesta), benzodiazepines for anxiety, and certain antipsychotics. They also increased risk for traffic accidents by varying degrees.
According to a report from The Daily Mail, the study was conducted by a research team out of the University of Taiwan. They compared drug use among 5,136 people who had been involved in traffic accidents between 2000 and 2009 with more than 30,000 others who had undergone outpatient care during the same period. None of those studied had a prior record of being involved in automobile accidents.
According to the study authors, taking an SSRI antidepressant increased the likelihood of a traffic accident by 72%. Surprisingly, patients were slightly more likely – 74% – to be involved in a motor vehicle crash the day they began a course of treatment with SSRI antidepressants. People taking benzodiazepines had a 56% increased risk, while Z-drugs were also associated with a higher chance of traffic accidents. Antipsychotics were associated with only a 9% increased risk.
The data also suggested significant dose effects for antidepressants, benzodiazepine and Z-drugs, with higher dosing correlating to greater dangers for those who choose to get behind the wheel.
“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 lead researcher, Hui-Ju of the National Health Research Institutes in Zhunan, Taiwan.
“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.”
It’s long been known that psychotropic drugs, which affect the way the brain functions, can impact the ability to drive. But most research in this area has focused on benzodiazepines.