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Friday, 17 February 2012

Older drivers on benzos crash risk worse than on antidepressants - FIDDAMAN blog

Over 60s car accident rate five times higher on benzos


Written by Chris Thomas Friday, 17 February 2012 06:00

“Older drivers exposed to benzodiazepines were five times as likely to be involved in a hospitalisation crash, and almost twice as likely for drivers exposed to antidepressants.”— Prof Meuleners.

PSYCHOACTIVE medications used by drivers older than 60 makes them five times more likely to have an accident, according to new research from the Curtin Monash Accident Research Centre.

Psychoactive Medications and Crash Involvement Requiring Hospitalisation for Older Drivers: A Population-Based Study found the impairment caused by benzodiazepines and antidepressants used by this age group was comparable to drinking alcohol.

Primarily acting upon the central nervous system, psychoactive drugs affect brain function causing changes in perception, mood, consciousness, cognition and behaviour.

Associate Professor Lynn Meuleners headed the study and believes licensing authorities should develop better policies to manage older drivers.

“Inclusion of such medications on medical reporting forms for older drivers would enable ongoing surveillance, providing a more comprehensive evidence base of the need for stricter regulatory policies,” she says.

“Pharmacists and doctors should warn patients of the side-effects of these medications and how it may impact on their driving ability, and there should be better labelling of medications.

“Older drivers exposed to benzodiazepines were five times as likely to be involved in a hospitalisation crash, and almost twice as likely for drivers exposed to antidepressants.”

More than 600 people aged 60 or older who were hospitalised after a motor vehicle accident in WA between 2002 and 2008 formed the basis of the research, published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. This group had been prescribed 6671 psychoactive medications.

“Data was obtained from hospital records to identify those who were involved in a crash and hospitalized. The Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme database was also to identify medication that each participant was taking at the time of the crash,” Associate Professor Lynn Meuleners says.

“Our results are consistent with other studies undertaken in other countries. But our study uses objective data, is population based and does not rely on self-reporting.”

The study did indicate it was difficult to specifically establish whether crash risk was greater because of psychoactive medication or the underlying health condition for which it was prescribed.

But it noted: “…the strength of the association, particularly for benzodiazepine usage, was high. The results are also plausible because the usage of medications, particularly benzodiazepines and antidepressants, may contribute to a longer reaction time when faced with the unexpected while driving.”

The study also indicated there was a need for more information about chronic conditions, medication use and its effect on the over-60 age group to establish a definitive link.

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