Opioid pain relievers, such as morphine and other narcotics, carry warning labels urging patients not to drive or operate heavy machinery during use. In addition, drivers under the influence of pain medication are typically subjected to the same laws and penalties as drivers under the influence of alcohol.
And yet, a recent preliminary study showed virtually no difference in the “driving skills and reaction times” of patients taking morphine compared to non-medicated drivers, said Asokumar Buvanendran, M.D., associate professor, Department of Anesthesiology, Rush University Medical Center, Chicago, Illinois.
Dr. Buvanendran’s study compared two groups of patients: 51 patients chronically receiving oral morphine and 49 patients (the control group) receiving no pain medication. Each study participant drove for approximately 12 minutes in a driving simulator that measured deviation from the centre of the road, weaving, the number of accidents and reaction time to surprise events. The amount of weaving was 3.83 feet for both sets of drivers, and the opioid group had 5.33 collisions compared to the non-opioid group with 5.04 (no statistical difference). Reaction time also was similar for both groups: 0.69 seconds for the controlled group and 0.67 for the opioid group.
The results suggest that patients who need, long-term pain medicine actually may “become tolerant” to the medication side effects that potentially impair function, Dr. Buvanendran said. In the future, these patients may be able to live “like normal functioning people, without the stigma and limitations now associated with long-term pain medication use,” he said. Fewer restrictions also will allow patients to travel more easily and access treatments, ultimately improving their quality of life.
MEDICA.de; Source: American Society of Anesthesiologists