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Are truck drivers taking too many stimulants?

Truckers provide a vital service, transporting the good people need to meet their daily needs, and they generally are key to keeping our nation functioning – but to say that they’re “tireless” in their travels is definitely untrue

Truckers are tired. Even with the government restrictions on their driving times, truckers work long hours and the job can get monotonous, especially on long-haul trips. The tight schedules often give them little time to get the sort of restorative sleep they actually need to feel rested. A lot of truckers naturally end up resorting to stimulants to help them stay awake, and that could be putting their health and the safety of others at risk.

Caffeine is often the “drug of choice” for truckers

Whether it’s coffee, cola or those “energy shots” that you can buy in every gas station, truckers often resort to caffeine for quick relief when they feel overly tired or drowsy. The problem with that solution, however, is that caffeine only temporarily increases their alertness. It does that by interfering with the chemicals in a driver’s brain that control their sleep-wake cycle. When the caffeine wears off (is metabolized), those chemicals rush back in and the trucker can end up feeling even more tired than when they started.

That often means that a trucker has to resort to more caffeine to finish their trip, and the cycle can escalate from there. Studies have shown that high caffeine consumption (5 cups of coffee or more per day) are more likely to end up in wrecks than low or moderate caffeine users.

Prescription stimulants are another problem

Truckers cannot use any amphetamines and keep their license, and that includes Adderall and other ADHD medication that is sometimes used “off-label” to give people a boost of energy.

However, there are other drugs, such as Provigil (Modafinil), that are prescribed to treat excessive daytime sleepiness – and truckers can use them. Like caffeine, however, these drugs can have serious side effects, including anxiety, nervousness, mood changes, memory issues, irritability and other problems, all of which can affect a driver’s ability to function safely.

The reality is that it’s very hard to tell how many truckers out there are using stimulants to stay awake. And, unfortunately, those stimulants in use can also make truck operators more error-prone.