Dr Nick Scott and his team use maths to outsmart deadly infectious diseases and save vulnerable lives.
While methadone is currently the primary pharmacotherapy used in the treatment of heroin dependence in Australia, levo-alpha-acetyl-methodol (LAAM) and buprenorphine are new pharmacotherapies that are being examined as alternatives to methadone maintenance treatment. The aim of this research is to consider the effects of the methadone, buprenorphine and LAAM, as used in maintenance pharmacotherapy for heroin dependence, upon simulated driving. Clients stabilised in methadone, LAAM and buprenorphine treatment programs for 3 months, and a control group of non-drug-using participants, took part in this study which involved operating a driving simulator over a 75 min period. All participants attended one session without alcohol and one session with alcohol at around the 0.05% blood alcohol level. Simulated driving skill was measured through standard deviations of lateral position, speed and steering wheel angle, and reaction time to a subsidiary task was also measured. While alcohol impaired all measures of driving performance, there were no differences in driving skills across the four participant groups. These findings suggest that typical community standards around driving safety should be applied to clients stabilised in methadone, LAAM and buprenorphine treatment. The findings are important in terms of the widespread implementation of these treatment options in Victoria given that a large proportion of pharmacotherapy clients drive.