Combination of medications increases at-fault crash risk for elderly drivers

by Ian Palmer

Photo by e-Magine Art

Older drivers who combine antidepressants with another psychotropic medication are at increased risk of having an at-fault motor vehicle crash (MVC), according to new research.

“Antidepressants alone did not increase MVC risk, unless prescribed with another psychotropic drug,” said Dr. Mark Rapoport, lead investigator of the study and psychiatrist at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, in a statement. “Then we saw an increased risk.”

The study, a collaboration between the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences (ICES), Ontario Ministry of Health, Ontario Ministry of Transportation and Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, finds that the at-fault MVC risk was highest during the first four months that the antidepressant and another psychotropic medication, such as benzodiazepines or anticholinergics, were being taken.

Benzodiazepines are often used as a therapy for sleep or anxiety problems and are the most commonly prescribed psychoactive drug in North America, while some drugs used to treat gastrointestinal and respiratory disorders have potent anticholinergic properties.

The authors of the study hope that future research focuses on whether it is the effects of the drug or the symptoms of depression that are causing the increased crash risks among the elderly population.

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