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Study: Taking methadone can double risk of getting in car wreck

Monday, January 02, 2012 by: Jonathan Benson, staff writer
Tags: methadone, car wrecks, accidents

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(NaturalNews) Former drug addicts trying to stay clean and individuals with severe pain are being prescribed methadone, a synthetic opioid, as supposed treatment. But a new study out of Norway suggests that men who take this powerful drug are twice as likely as those not taking it to get in a car wreck while driving.

Dr. Jrgen G. Bramness from the Norwegian Centre for Addiction Research at the University of Oslo evaluated data on methadone users and motor vehicle accidents spanning two and a half years. Of the 2,500 individuals identified as taking methadone, 26 of them were involved in a motor vehicle accident, while only about half that amount from a similar-sized, non-methadone group were involved in an accident.

Published in the journal Addiction, the study confirms much of what is already known about methadone's effects on users, which include its ability to severely impair mental and physical abilities. Methadone is also classified as a Schedule II drug, which means it is considered to be highly addictive, and to have a high potential for abuse.

"Many different things go into increasing traffic accident risk, like reduced attention, slowed reaction, slowed psychomotor performance, less accurate psychomotor performance, etc.," said Dr. Bramness in an email to Reuters Health. And all of these traffic accident risk factors can be brought about or exacerbated by the use of methadone.

Like alcohol, driving under the influence of methadone is dangerous because it can cause impaired awareness and extreme lethargy. Driving under the influence of methadone has become such a serious problem that some states have actually had to pass laws against it, including one passed earlier this year in Massachusetts that restricts commercial truckers from taking methadone and driving (http://articles.boston.com/2011-07-09/news/2...).

Despite the fact that an increasing number of traffic accidents are turning up to be related to methadone use and abuse, some authorities still believe that driving restrictions for methadone users are unnecessary. The Norway study, however, is just one more piece of compelling evidence to show that they may, indeed, be necessary -- and the study also suggests that some pharmaceutical drugs are just as much a public health threat to drivers as illicit street drugs or alcohol, if not more so.

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