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This article was published 11/10/2017 (254 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
A prominent Winnipeg psychiatrist is taking aim at Manitoba Public Insurance’s campaign against drug-impaired driving.
The campaign launched last month with a focus on cannabis impairment, ahead of federal legalization of marijuana in Canada on July 1. But the billboards, pamphlets and other advertisements are also tackling impairment via prescription drugs.
"Unintentionally impaired?" Reads one poster distributed to doctors’ offices. "Learn how your medication can affect your driving."
It’s a fairly innocuous-looking poster with standard messaging: drive safely.
But Dr. Keith Hildahl says the messaging it includes about stimulants is particularly concerning because it misleads readers about controversial drugs commonly used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
"It looks to me like whatever MPI did, they certainly haven’t consulted with any child and adolescent psychiatrists," the former head of adolescent psychiatry for the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority and former CEO of the Manitoba Adolescent Treatment Centre said.
The poster says stimulants reduce balance, co-ordination and impulse control and increase risk-taking behaviours. That’s not actually the case in prescription stimulants, Hildahl says.
It’s "directly the opposite," he says: the drugs are used to reduce both impulsivity and risk-taking behaviour.
"They’re saying it increases it so what happens is that young people are going to read that and take it as a warning not to take these drugs (while driving)," Hildahl says, which is ultimately "more of a danger to you and I."
A spokesman for MPI says the information for the poster was sourced directly from the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction (CCSA), as well as the newly formed Traffic Injury Research Foundation.
Indeed, a CCSA poster sent to the Free Press by the spokesman warns that stimulants such as cocaine and methamphetamines can cause body shakes, reduce balance and co-ordination, reduce impulse control and increase risk-taking. However, another CCSA fact sheet notes that in low doses prescription stimulants actually help with alertness, energy and attentiveness. They’re quite common in Canada, particularly among young people.
The MPI poster does not differentiate between the two, which Hildahl says is particularly concerning given it was sent to doctors’ offices, where psychiatrists might prescribe stimulants.
"There’s no question that drugs of abuse are different, but this is a prescribed medication," he says. "It’s irresponsible to be doing this without consulting properly with the psychiatric community when we’re the group that’s primarily responsible for this."
MPI noted that "different types of medication can impact your abilities behind the wheel," the spokesman says, adding the poster recommends patients talk to their doctors "to understand how their medication may affect them."