Individuals who take a daily does of painkillers have a 20-40 percent higher risk of being involved in a car crash, a Canadian study shows.
While significantly less dangerous than driving under the influence of alcohol, patients and doctors should be aware of the effects opiate based prescriptions have on their safety, researchers say. The Toronto-based Institute for Clinical Evaluative Studies, which conducted the study, says that the most important message from the study is that doctors need to be more proactive about explaining the risks of driving while on painkillers.
Dr. David Juurlink, who co-authored the study, warns that painkillers affect attentiveness and alertness and that pain patients should be aware of these risks. Taking the proper precautions such as minimizing driving are the best way to avoid accidents.
“We’re not proposing draconian measures like don’t drive or licence suspensions. We’re just saying: ‘Be aware,’ because these drugs are very commonly prescribed.” Said Juurlink.
More than 200 million prescriptions are written for opioids in the United States every year. Opioids include medications such as Percocet, Morphine, Oxycontin, and codeine. The study postulates that patients on a low daily painkiller regimen, approximately 20 mg of morphine, are at a 20% higher risk of being involved in a car crash. Additionally, individuals on a high daily regimen, approximately 100 mg of morphine, see their risk jump up 42%.
There is no easy way of measuring levels of intoxication caused by opioids and other prescription drugs, like there is with alcohol.