One of the risk factors influencing crash involvement is the use of psychoactive medicinal drugs. These drugs act primarily on the central nervous system and are widely used for the treatment of psychiatric and neurological problems. Among the most frequently prescribed psychoactive medicinal drugs are GABAergic hypnotics and anxiolytics, for the treatment of insomnia and anxiety disorders, respectively. Besides therapeutic effects, they often produce side-effects or residual effects. They impair cognitive and psychomotor functions and negatively affect performance in a variety of activities, such as driving.
To date, the impairing effects of hypnotics and anxiolytics on driving have been widely established in a large number of experimental studies that were mainly conducted with healthy young volunteers. Despite the vast amount of existing data concerning the effects of hypnotics and anxiolytics on driving, a number of questions still remain unanswered. It is still not clear whether the results found in healthy young volunteers translate to therapeutic use in patients. Furthermore, it has not yet been clarified if residual effects of hypnotics are manifested differently between female and male users. Finally, it has not been studied what influence a change in formulation has on the adverse effects of an anxiolytic on driving performance.
Therefore, the aim of this dissertation is to evaluate to what extent the effects of hypnotics and anxiolytics on driving performance are modulated by factors, such as age, gender, disorder or drug formulation.