The impact of therapeutic opioid agonists on driving-related psychomotor skills assessed by a driving simulator or an on-road driving task: A systematic review

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Abstract

Background:

Driving cessation is associated with poor health-related outcomes. People with chronic diseases are often prescribed long-term opioid agonists that have the potential to impair driving. Studies evaluating the impact of opioids on driving-related psychomotor skills report contradictory results likely due to heterogeneous designs, assessment tools and study populations. A better understanding of the effects of regular therapeutic opioid agonists on driving can help to inform the balance between individual’s independence and community safety.

Aim:

To identify the literature assessing the impact of regular therapeutic opioid agonists on driving-related psychomotor skills for people with chronic pain or chronic breathlessness.

Design:

Systematic review reported in accordance with the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Review and Meta-analysis statement; PROSPERO Registration CRD42017055909.

Data sources:

Six electronic databases and grey literature were systematically searched up to January, 2017. Inclusion criteria were as follows: (1) empirical studies reporting data on driving simulation, on-the-road driving tasks or driving outcomes; (2) people with chronic pain or chronic breathlessness; and (3) taking regular therapeutic opioid agonists. Critical appraisal used the National Institutes of Health’s quality assessment tools.

Results:

From 3809 records screened, three studies matched the inclusion criteria. All reported data on people with chronic non-malignant pain. No significant impact of regular therapeutic opioid agonists on people’s driving-related psychomotor skills was reported. One study reported more intense pain significantly worsened driving performance.

Conclusion:

This systematic review does not identify impaired simulated driving performance when people take regular therapeutic opioid agonists for symptom control, although more prospective studies are needed.

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