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J Stud Alcohol Drugs. 2017 Jan;78(1):30-38.

Prevalence of Self-Reported Prescription Drug Use in a National Sample of U.S. Drivers.

Author information

  • 1NORC at the University of Chicago, Bethesda, Maryland.
  • 2Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation, Calverton, Maryland.



Drug-involved driving has become an increasing concern. Although the focus has been on illegal drugs, there is evidence that prescribed medications can impair driving ability. The purpose of this study was to determine the self-reported prevalence of prescription drug use, including medical and nonmedical use, among a nationally representative sample of drivers and to report related driver characteristics.


As part of the 2013-2014 National Roadside Survey, drivers from 60 sites were randomly recruited and asked to complete a survey on prescription drug use.


Almost 20% of drivers reported using a prescription drug within the past 2 days, with the most common drug class being sedatives (8.0%), followed by antidepressants (7.7%), narcotics (7.5%), and stimulants (3.9%). Drivers who reported prescription drug use were significantly more likely to be female, older, non-Hispanic White, and report disability. Three of four drivers who reported medication use (78.2%) said the drug was prescribed for their use; the odds of using without a prescription were significantly higher for males, Black/African American, and Hispanic drivers, and lower for older drivers. Among those with a prescription, taking more than prescribed was most common for narcotics (6.8%), followed by sedatives (4.8%), stimulants (3.8%), and antidepressants (1.5%).


These findings help to identify drivers using potentially impairing prescription drugs, both medically and nonmedically, and may inform the targeting of interventions to reduce impaired driving related to medications.

[Available on 2018-01-01]
[PubMed - in process]
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