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
JournalHuman Psychopharmacology
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2019


  • anxiolytics
  • benzodiazepines
  • driving performance
  • hypnotics
  • long-term use


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