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There are many prescription drugs that can affect a person’s ability to operate a motor vehicle, but few people are aware of all the side effects of the medications they use. While many people associate a driving under the influence (DUI) charge with illegal drugs and alcohol, a driver can also receive a DUI for prescription drug use. In a new study by the Injury Control Research Center at West Virginia University, 20 percent of survey participants reported recently using a prescription medication that could put them at a heightened risk for a wreck.
Even when the medications had warning labels and warranted additional warnings from a doctor or pharmacist, people still were not aware that their driving ability might be impaired by the medication they were taking. For the study, which appeared in the November issue of the Journal of Studies on Drugs and Alcohol, data from the 2013-14 National Roadside Survey was used. More than 7,400 drivers across the United States were asked about their current medication use.
Results of the study showed that doctors and pharmacists need to take the opportunity to discuss drugged driving and accident risk with patients receiving both prescription and over the counter types of medication. Participants considered morphine, codeine, muscle relaxants, amphetamines, and sleep aids as driving risks, but many admitted they had not read the warning labels about side effects for other drugs.
Of those taking stimulants, 42 percent had not read the warning label or received advice from a doctor or pharmacist about driving risks associated with their medication. This was also the case for 37 of those taking antidepressants, 15 percent of people using a narcotic, and 14 percent of people taking sedatives. The researchers were not able to determine if the patients had been warned and forgotten, or never received any warning at all.
Because drugs can affect a driver’s vision, reaction time, and mental focus, it is imperative that people have accurate information about any risks associated with the medications they are taking. Particularly, senior drivers or others who may be taking multiple medications should understand all the possible side effects and interactions of the drugs they use. Patients should always inform their doctors of any over the counter medications they are taking as well as any herbal supplements.
The lead researcher for the study, Robin Pollini, was surprised to learn that this was the first study being done on the topic of driver impairment and prescription drug use. With prescription drug use on the rise, more study is needed in this area.
If you or someone you love has been injured in a car accident, you may be entitled to compensation for your injuries. Call 302-422-6705 to arrange a free consultation with a dedicated Milford car accident lawyer at Rhoades & Morrow or contact us online. From our offices in Bear, Milford, and Wilmington, we represent clients throughout the state, including those in Dover, Elsmere, Georgetown, Glasgow, Middletown, Newark, New Castle, Seaford, and Smyrna, Delaware.