Driving performance and neurocognitive skills of long-term users of benzodiazepine anxiolytics and hypnotics

Nick N J J M van der Sluiszen, Annemiek Vermeeren, Joris C Verster, Aurora J A E van de Loo, Joke H van Dijken, Janet L Veldstra, Karel A Brookhuis, Dick de Waard, Johannes G. Ramaekers*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


OBJECTIVE: The aim of this study is to compare actual driving performance and skills related to driving of patients using benzodiazepine anxiolytics or hypnotics for at least 6 months to that of healthy controls.

METHODS: Participants were 44 long-term users of benzodiazepine and benzodiazepine-related anxiolytics (n = 12) and hypnotics (n = 32) and 65 matched healthy controls. Performance was assessed using an on-the-road driving test measuring standard deviation of lateral position (SDLP, in cm) and a battery of neurocognitive tasks. Performance differences between groups were compared with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.5 mg/ml to determine clinical relevance.

RESULTS: Compared with controls, SDLP was significantly increased in hypnotic users (+1.70 cm) but not in anxiolytic users (+1.48 cm). Anxiolytic and hypnotic users showed significant and clinically relevant impairment on neurocognitive task measuring executive functioning, vigilance, and reaction time. For patients using hypnotics for at least 3 years, no significant driving impairment was observed.

CONCLUSION: Impairing effects of benzodiazepine hypnotics on driving performance may mitigate over time following longer term use (i.e. 3 years or more) although neurocognitive impairments may remain.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere2715
Number of pages13
JournalHuman Psychopharmacology-Clinical and Experimental
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2019


  • anxiolytics
  • benzodiazepines
  • driving performance
  • hypnotics
  • long-term use
  • ROAD
  • RISK
  • CAR

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