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Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors While Driving

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Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors While Driving


When people are placed on chronic, long-term medications by their doctor, one of the greatest concerns is how those medications will impact their ability to operate heavy machinery. While some medications may have no side effects, other pills can adversely impact someone’s reflexes, judgment, or mentation.

When this happens, those medications can make someone a hazard behind the wheel that places themselves and other people on the road and in the car at risk. 

What is a Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor?

A selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor is a type of medication used commonly to treat depression and other psychiatric issues associated with depressive symptoms, such as PTSD. When someone is depressed, their neuronal levels of serotonin might be low. Serotonin is one of the neurotransmitters in the nervous system that makes people happy.

If someone has low serotonin levels, their therapist or psychiatrist could decide to place them on a medication that will increase their serotonin levels. The brain reabsorbs serotonin from the vessels into storage pods using reuptake transporters. When these transporters are active, they remove serotonin from the brain.

A selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor is used to block these reuptake transporters, therefore keeping serotonin levels higher in the nervous system. This acts to influence people’s mood and can make them happier. There are many different types of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) that all have different side effects. Therefore, these side effects must be considered carefully before deciding which SSRI to place a patient on.

What is the Evidence for their use while Driving?

As mentioned above, SSRIs are widely used to treat depression and other mental conditions. There are many different types, and they are widely prescribed, each with its own profile of side effects. Despite their wide use, little research has been done regarding their safety when people get behind the wheel. While they appear to be as effective as prior generations of psychiatric medications, which have far worse side effects, it is important to look at how these medications might impact traffic safety.

A team of medical professionals conducted an extensive literature review to look at the evidence present regarding SSRIs and driving. Their research turned up a few interesting results after combing the databases for papers from sites such as MEDLINE and Safety Lit. They included full-text articles, referred to adverse effects related to driving in some way, and have pharmacological evidence linking SSRIs and traffic accidents. They ultimately found ten different articles with background information on driving effects and 15 articles analyzing experimental studies looking at SSRIs and driving.

There were several side effects of SSRIs that could impact someone’s ability to drive. These include:

  • Anxiety: If someone is nervous behind a car’s wheel, they could start making rash decisions that might lead to auto accidents. People need to remain calm behind the wheel of a car.
  • Sleep Issues: Some SSRIs can make it difficult for people to sleep at night, rendering them tired the next day. Other SSRIs could make people drowsy as a side effect. Someone who feels tired behind the wheel of a car could lead to accidents involving serious traumatic injuries.
  • Suicidal Thoughts: While this may seem counter-intuitive based on the purpose of SSRIs, some people can actually get suicidal thoughts while taking an SSRI. If someone has these thoughts, they probably shouldn’t be behind the wheel of a car because it could lead to a wrongful death situation.
What Should be Done Moving Forward?

Based on the results of the research study, the professionals concluded that much more information regarding SSRIs and their safety on the roads was needed. It will be important to find ways to objectively quantify the side effects that someone is feeling from the medication so that it can be determined what levels are unsafe for driving.

Unfortunately, people respond to medications in different ways, and it can be hard to apply these standards to different people. On the surface, it appears that some of these side effects can make it challenging for someone to drive safely.

Those who have been injured by someone taking medication can have expensive medical bills that insurance might not cover. In this situation, contacting an experienced personal injury attorney in Sacramento to learn about the different options for getting these bills paid is a wise choice.

Experienced Personal Injury Attorney in Sacramento 

I’m Ed Smith, a Personal Injury Attorney in Sacramento. If you’ve suffered an injury in a car accident, call us for free, compassionate, and friendly legal advice. You can reach us at 916.921.6400 or 800.404.5400.

We are members of the Million Dollar Advocates Forum and the National Association of Distinguished Counsel.

See our case history of verdicts and settlements and our client reviews on GoogleYelp, and Avvo.

Editor’s Note: This page has been updated for accuracy and relevancy [cha 3.30.21]

Photo by Pietro Jeng from Pexels
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