Harvard Men's Health Watch

Many prescription drug users not aware of driving-related risks

In the journals

People who take prescription drugs do not always know about side effects that could increase their risk of driving accidents, suggests a study published online Oct. 31, 2017, by the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs.

Researchers asked 7,405 drivers about their prescription drug use. Nearly 20% used medication that could affect their driving skills — for example, by causing drowsiness or impairing cognitive or motor function — yet almost all were unaware of these potential side effects. Either they did not receive or remember a warning from their doctor or pharmacist, or they did not recognize or recall a warning on the drug label.

The study also found that medical professionals were more likely to warn patients about certain types of medications. For instance, 86% of people using sedatives said they received warnings from medical professionals, as did 85% of people using narcotics, 63% of those using antidepressants, and 58% of those using stimulants.

The researchers noted that although most doctors and pharmacists tell patients about a drug’s potential side effects, especially how it may impair their driving skills, some do not, so you should always ask as well as read the label for any warnings.

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