You may have already noticed that some prescription medications, as well as over-the-counter medicines, have labels warning that you should not drive when taking them. These warnings are designed to keep you from driving while impaired, hopefully preventing a vehicle accident. But why do some meds affect your ability to drive?
Many psychiatric medications, including commonly prescribed antidepressants and anti-anxiety treatments, indicate you should not drive while taking them. Antidepressants may act as a stimulant, causing your mind not to focus on the activity at hand. Anti-anxiety meds often relax the tension and reduce the physical symptoms of high levels of anxiety, but they can also slow your thoughts which greatly reduces your reaction time when driving.
Prescription Pain Relievers
Most over-the-counter pain relievers won’t bother you when driving. Many prescription medications, including those containing codeine, help to relax your muscles to reduce the pain you feel. Codeine and other strong pain medication ingredients such as oxycodone can cause dizziness or blurred vision which can make it difficult to drive.
Cold & Allergy Medications
While many over-the-counter pain meds won’t impair your ability to drive, you should not drive while taking any allergy medications including stimulants like pseudoephedrine and these are regularly available at pharmacies, although usually behind the counter. Medications like these, including Claritin D or many forms of Sudafed, can impair focus and reflexes so you should not drive while taking them.
Every sleeping supplement, whether prescribed or over-the-counter like ZzzQuil, will be labeled with a warning that you should not drive unless you’ve had a certain number of hours to sleep. For example, commonly prescribed sleeping medication Ambien requires at least 8 hours of sleep. Without a full 8 hours of sleep, this medication can cause patients to go about their daily routines even while still asleep. When taking sleeping medications, you should not drive unless you are fully awake.
There are many over-the-counter medications that act as stimulants. The “stay awake and focus” medications that are popular with college students and even those who work full-time schedules can also cause you to lose track of your activities, especially during more complex activities such as driving. Other stimulant medications include some types of diet pills that are designed to boost your metabolism and you should not drive while taking them.
Symptoms Indicating You Should Not Drive
We mentioned that some types of medications can make you drowsy or dizzy. If you feel this way, it’s important to find an alternative method of transportation. Some medications can cause just the opposite, such as an inability to focus or a feeling of being hyper. Other side effects that indicate you should not drive are nausea or blurred vision. However, if after taking any medications you do not feel your best, you should not drive.
Many of the types of medications that we listed above will only have side effects when first taking them and as your body adjusts to their regular use you may not see them anymore. If you have any doubts as to whether you should not drive, talk to the doctor who prescribed the medications or to the pharmacist where you purchased the over-the-counter medicine. Martin Gasparian is experienced in impaired driving personal injury cases. If you would like to discuss your situation in more detail during a free and confidential consultation, call the Maison Law Firm at (559) 203-3333.