Driving on Prescription Drugs

Driving on Prescription Drugs

What prescription drugs can you not take if you want to drive? This type of question is something that everybody should ask if they are currently taking prescription medication. 

In most cases, the answer is yes if you can drive when taking prescription medication. However, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will continuously advise that you ensure you have read the leaflet that comes with the medication before you begin operating any vehicle, no matter whether that is a:

  • Car
  • Tractor
  • Bus
  • Plane
  • Boat
  • Train

As we have mentioned in this blog, most medications will not affect your ability to drive; some prescription medicines can have specific side effects and cause potential reactions that may make it unsafe to operate a vehicle. Side effects of some prescription medications can be seen to include:

  • Blurred vision
  • Fainting 
  • Slowed movement or reaction time 
  • Excitability
  • Nausea
  • Inability to focus
  • Sleepiness
  • Drowsiness
  • Dizziness
  • Inability to pay attention 

It is known that some medications can affect your driving for short periods of time straight after taking them. Unlike other prescription medications, the effects can be long-lasting, even up to the next day. Other prescription medications will have a clear warning not to operate heavy machinery; this includes driving a car even for a short distance. Certain prescription medicines, including benzodiazepines and opioids, can cause:

  • Drowsiness
  • Dizziness
  • Impair cognitive functioning (thinking and judgment)

All of these effects can lead to vehicle crashes.

Medicines that may affect driving abilities 

Understanding how your medication or a combination of your prescription medication will affect your ability to drive safely is vital. The below drugs that are listed have the potential to make driving dangerous:

  • Some antidepressants 
  • Opioid pain relievers
  • Medications containing codeine
  • Sleeping pills
  • Muscle relaxants
  • Prescription drugs for mental health issues such as anxiety 
    • For example, benzodiazepines
  • Antipsychotic drugs
  • Medicines that are designed to prevent or treat motion sickness
  • Several cold remedies and allergy products 

Cannabidiol products and driving 

Taking products such as cannabidiol (CBD), and driving can be extremely dangerous due to the effects the medication causes:

  • Sedation
  • Sleepiness
  • Lethargy

Due to the side effects, individuals who consume this product should not plan or operate any motor vehicle. Along with marijuana, prescription drugs are also commonly linked to drugged driving crashes. In 2016, 19.7% of drivers who drove while under the influence tested positive for some type of opioid

Sleep medications 

Individuals with insomnia have trouble falling asleep and will therefore begin taking medication to aid their sleep. However, many people are unaware that the following day, some sleep medications could still affect your ability to perform regular activities that you need to be fully alert for in a safe manner, such as driving. 

A common ingredient that is found within prescribed sleep medication is Zolpidem which belongs to a class of medications that is associated with sedative-hypnotics. The FDA has stated that medicines containing the medication Zolpidem can impair driving abilities and various other activities the following morning. 

How to avoid driving impaired 

Talking to your health care provider to learn about the possible side effects of the prescription medication you are taking is the best way to ensure that you are safe when driving heavy machinery. 

Pharmacists and doctors can tell you about all the known side effects of the medication, including any that may begin interfering with your driving. Furthermore, you can request print information about any side effects of the medication you are taking. 

If you need to be able to drive but are on prescription medication that doesn’t allow you, speak to your health care provider to:

  • Manage your dosage
  • Adjust the timing of when you need to take the medication
  • Change the medication completely 

Below we have added some tips to ensure that you are always in the right frame of mind when on prescription medication and driving:

  • Don’t randomly stop taking your prescription medication unless the health care professional instructs you to
  • Always ensure you follow the directions of use 
  • Read the warnings on the medication packaging carefully
  • Ensure your healthcare provider knows if you are experiencing any reaction to the medication 

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