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

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Palliative Medicine, 2018, 32 (4), pp. 786 - 803
Issue Date:
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© 2017, © The Author(s) 2017. 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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