3/8/2013 8:31:00 PM,
Philip A. Janquart
WASHINGTON (CN) - The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) has added the non-controlled drugs tramadol, and sedating antihistamines to its standard post-accident toxicological testing panel for employees involved in serious train accidents.
Tramadol is a pain reliever used to treat moderate to moderately severe pain, and has the potential to be habit forming, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
Sedating antihistamines are classically associated with medications for allergies, hives and itchy skin conditions, and are represented by a variety of chemicals such as chlorpheniramine (Chlor-Tripalon), brompheniramine (Dimetane), diphenhydramine (Benadryl) and dimehydrenate (Gravol), according to nutramed.com.
The FRA, which operates under the U.S. Department of Transportation, implemented a post-accident toxicological testing program in 1985 to test employees who had been involved in serious train accidents. The program tests for alcohol and drugs listed as controlled substances by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). Those drugs include marijuana, cocaine, phencyclidine (PCP) and others, as well as opiates such as amphetamines, barbituates and benzodiazepines.
"The purpose of these tests is to determine if alcohol misuse or drug abuse played a role in the occurrence or severity of an accident," the FRA said.
The FRA last May proposed adding routine post-accident tests for certain non-controlled substances with potentially impairing side effects, based on studies that indicate an increase in the use of certain medications by railroad employees.
The FRA said, "studies have shown a significant increase in the daily use of prescription drugs, OTC drugs, vitamins and herbal and dietary supplements by both railroad workers and the general population. Although most prescription drugs and all OTC (over-the-counter) drugs are non-controlled substances, many commonly used ones, such as antihistamines and muscle relaxants (e.g. tramadol), carry labels warning against driving or moving heavy machinery because of their potential sedating effects."
In addition, the FRA said, OTC drugs that do not carry warning labels can be dangerous when taken in combination with other drugs.