On April 22, I published a post on this general topic. In that article I pointed out that the notion of stimulant prescription drugs improving the driving of people who “have ADHD” was gaining traction.
Since than I have come across two articles on this subject from Australia. (Thanks to Nanu Grewal for the links.) Both articles appeared in the Sunshine Coast Daily, and you can see them here and here.
Apparently in 2009, four people, including five-year-old twin girls, died in a two-car accident. The driver of one of the cars had been prescribed dexamphetamine for the treatment of ADHD by a local psychiatrist, and was found to have had six times the prescribed dosage of dexamphetamine in his system at the time of the crash.
In the first article, dated October 2011, two years after the accident, it was noted that the psychiatrist’s prescribing practices were under investigation. But the general manager of the psychiatric hospital where the psychiatrist practiced is quoted as saying that none of the allegations had been substantiated.
“Not one shred of evidence against anyone has been unearthed.”
The article also quotes Michael Cleary, Queensland acting chief health officer, as saying
“An analysis of available medical evidence has found that under-medicating is potentially more dangerous than prescribing higher doses, particularly when expert physicians consider a higher dose is appropriate”
So if an “expert physician” (presumably a psychiatrist) says that it’s OK to drive stoked to the gills on speed, then it’s OK!
The second article is dated July 2013, four years after the fatal accident. Here it is reported that the prescribing psychiatrist whose practices had
“…been the subject of complaints by colleagues and nurses for many years, has had severe restrictions placed on his right to practice.”
It is also reported that two nurses who were fired after
“…repeatedly raising concerns” about the psychiatrist were planning to sue for reinstatement.
What’s noteworthy about all of this is that, firstly, it took four year and persistent pressure from the dead girls’ father before some kind of action was taken against this psychiatrist. Secondly, there had evidently been multiple complaints about this psychiatrist, but they were ignored by the hospital
. . . . . . . . .
The idea of prescribing stimulant drugs to people who drive motor vehicles has always seemed problematic to me. I worked for five years in the chemical dependency treatment area, and I have heard more horror stories about driving under the influence of stimulants than I care to remember. Today the notion is gaining credence that stimulant drugs improve driving performance in people who “have ADHD.” All of the research that supports this notion was industry sponsored , and most was conducted in simulators and under artificial conditions.
In real-life driving, it has to be recognized that stimulants are addictive drugs. School children sell them to their classmates for recreational use. Adults buy them illegally on the street. People who receive them on prescription sometimes save them up for a weekend binge. How many traffic accidents today are stimulant-induced? How much of the frenetic, aggressive driving that we see on our highways stems from the use of these products?
There is a movement in most western countries today to combat drunk driving, and this is having considerable success. In this context, psychiatry’s contention that people who “have ADHD” drive better under the influence of stimulants has to be seen as a major step backwards.
Is there truly no limit to what psychiatry will do to sell drugs and enhance their own perceived importance?