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Antidepressants may increase happiness, but also car accidents

In the past couple decades we've seen major advances in pharmaceuticals geared toward mental health. Antidepressants have increased in both effectiveness and usage, with much of the stigma associated with these drugs removed so that many more people are taking them and seeing positive results. But as the advertisements for these medications make clear, they come with a range of side effects.

When patients are prescribed any new medication, it's up to their doctor to advise them of any possible side effects. A new study from Taiwan suggests the effects of some psychotropic drugs could have an effect on people other than the patient -- namely, an increased risk of impairment while driving, which could lead to car accidents.

The study, published in a British pharmacology journal last month, examined the drug use of about 5,200 people who were involved in major car accidents as compared to 31,000 others without crashes in their record. The study's researchers found that the people who had accidents were more likely to have been taking psychotropic drugs.

Other studies have linked the use of antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications. The new research links these drugs as well as those used to help people sleep with an increased risk of car accidents. Interestingly, it also found that antipsychotic drugs didn't have the same effect.

How do these findings translate to the road? They strongly suggest that doctors who prescribe such medications should have a serious talk with their patients about how their driving abilities might be affected. Delayed reaction times can present a danger not just to patients, but to their passengers and any other motorists sharing the road with them. While the study stops short of establishing a direct cause-and-effect connection, its findings are significant enough to warrant some warnings about driving safety.

Source: U.S. News & World Report, "Psych, Sleep Meds May Affect Driving," Sept. 13, 2012

· Our law firm handles car accidents and a wide variety of other personal injury cases. To learn more about our practice, please visit our Newark, New Jersey, car accidents page.

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