Driving Under the Influence of Prescription Drugs

Like a rite of passage in today’s society, when you turn 16 years old, you are given the privilege to learn how to drive and join the millions if not billions of people already on the road. A 2 ton killing machine is at your command, complete with distractions and features like phone hook-ups and televisions.

When something like driving becomes routine or of the norm, we tend to forget how important it is to be focused and coherent on just that task. People tend to be so comfortable with driving, they forget about the factors that could affect the way they drive. Illicit and prescription drugs are becoming one of those factors and it is costing people their lives. Driving under the influence of alcohol or prescription drugs is illegal and becoming a very dangerous problem.

In 2010 a nationwide study found that 46.5 % of drivers that cause fatal accidents are testing positive for prescription drugs. These drugs include sedatives like Ambien, Restoril, and Desyrel.

Another study was done by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA’s) in 2013-2014 found that more than 22 percent of drivers tested positive for prescription, illegal, or over-the-counter drugs.

Dr. Christopher Winter, a spokesman for the American Academy of Sleep Medicine comments that, “This finding is shockingly not shocking. Sleeping pills are a huge problem,”

“This study screams that many doctors do not know how to treat sleep patients. You have to develop a plan to deal with their sleep, not merely sedate them.”

Ryan Hansen and his colleagues at the University of Washington in Seattle analyzed 400,000 prescription records and their motor vehicle records to determine if there was a correlation. They found that Trazodone, Restoril, and Ambien were the most commonly prescribed medications of those 400,000 Washington drivers and the overall risk of collision related sedatives were similar to the accident risk associated with driving drunk.

Dr. Winter continues to add, “The trouble is that Americans are fixated on sleep and getting to sleep fast. They may not realize that many sleeping pills like Ambien are addictive and can worsen the quality of your sleep. Sleeping pills have their uses,” he acknowledged, “they can help people who have suffered a tragic event or need to adjust to a new work schedule, but they should not become a regular habit.”

Finding a Solution

As Dr. Winter acknowledged, sleeping pills are not bad and often considered useful for those who truly need it. However, it should not be the answer or a long term solution for those who are suffering from insomnia.

Michael Grandner, an instructor in psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia recommends that the solution for insomnia should not be to sedate the patients with medication, but to consider cognitive behavioral therapies that focus on analyzing the brains sleep habits and reprograming it for a healthier pattern of sleep.

“Cognitive behavioral therapy is effective and much safer than many prescription sleeping medications,” Grandner adds, “If you have severe insomnia, you may wish to seek out an insomnia specialist who is trained to fix these sorts of problems without sleeping medications.”
A study was conducted in 2004 called Cognitive Behavior Therapy and Pharmacotherapy for Insomnia: A Randomized Controlled Trial and Direct Comparison, testing the effectiveness Cognitive Behavioral Therapy ( CBT), Pharmaceutical medication, both pharmaceutical and CBT, and placebo for those suffering from insomnia.

The graph below depicts the data they collected from sleep diaries completed by the patients. For more information regarding the study check out the resource http://archinte.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=217394

sedative driving graph

This interpretation of the graph indicates that CBT or Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is a more effective method for treating insomnia and the combination of both medication and CBT are more effective than just one method alone.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You May Also Like