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Depression And Medication Impairs Driving

Posted by Jane Akre
Tuesday, August 19, 2008 5:41 PM EST
Category: On The Road, Major Medical, Protecting Your Family
Tags: FDA and Prescription Drugs, Prozac, Depression, Antidepressants

Antidepression medication and depression equal poor driving skills, this study shows.



IMAGE SOURCE: ©iStockphoto/ road to nowhere/ author: Mlenny


Why is it that drivers on antidepressants seem to have an impaired ability to drive?  Is it the medication or the depression that is to blame?

Depression causes concentration problems and now researchers find that taking prescription antidepressants adds to the inability to drive well.

Dr. Holly J. Dannewitz conducted her research at the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks. Her team’s findings were released at the American Psychological Association annual meeting Sunday in Boston. 

The study is called “The Effects of Antidepressants on Cognitive and Driving Performance.”

As part of her study, 60 people suffering from depression, were asked to “drive” a computerized version of a car. Half of the participants were taking at least one antidepressant and half were taking no medication. 

People experiencing depression were ranked either “low” or “high” in their level of depression at the time of the test.  

The simulated car allowed participants to perform tasks such as braking, steering, stopping, crossing traffic lights, reacting to speed limit signs and deer crossings. 

Those highly depressed, taking a high dose of antidepressants, registered the worst driving skills, including inability to react quickly and to rely on memory.  

The next phase of research will include people experiencing depression who are not taking antidepressants.

"More research needs to be done, of course," Dr. Dannewitz tells U.S. News. "And I wouldn't want to instill fear in drivers. But I think that perhaps individuals who are taking these medications should just be aware of the fact that they may cause concentration problems and impair reaction time."

People who had low depression scores and were taking a low dose of  antidepressants did not have as much trouble driving and in fact, had an almost equal ability to those not on any antidepressants.

Those not on medication registered with 69 points compared to people taking low doses of medication at 65. People taking high doses of medication scored 54 points.

Antidepressants come with a warning against handling of heavy machinery including driving.

The BBC reports that drivers in England and Wales must report to the licensing agency if they have any condition, including depression, that could impair driving.

Antidepressant use including Prozac, Paxil, and Zoloft, has tripled in the last decade.

According to the 2004 National Center for Health Statistics, one in ten American women is taking an antidepressant.

10 percent of Americans will experience severe depression at some point in their lives.

The National Institute for Mental Health reports that depression is a common but serious illness and most people need treatment to improve, yet many never seek help. #

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