Powered by

Dream Assurance

Powered by

Dream Assurance Group

The Dangers of
Driving After Taking Prescription Drugs
or Over-the-Counter Medicines

driving after taking a prescription drug

Nine out of 10 Americans take over-the-counter medication regularly, according to the Pharmacy Times. Unlike prescription medicines, which require a doctor’s prescription, over-the-counter medications can be purchased directly and are used to control symptoms or treat various medical conditions.

Some of the most common over-the-counter medicines include:

    • Cold remedies

    • Pain relievers

    • Diarrhea medicines

    • Allergy medicines

    • Herbal supplements

However, active ingredients in over-the-counter medication may have the potential for drug abuse when people take more than the recommended dosage. Some medicine can have side effects that may impair a person’s ability to drive a motor vehicle safely.

It’s essential to be aware of the potential effects of medicine, especially if you are a commercial truck driver or anyone who operates a vehicle. It’s important to know which medication can potentially impair the ability to drive.


Antidepressants, Opioids, and Other OTC and Prescription Medication May Also Cause Impairment

Here are some examples of medications you can’t drive on:

  • Sedatives and Hypnotics: Medications that have a sedative or hypnotic effect, such as certain sleep aids and tranquilizers, can cause drowsiness and impair alertness.
  • Antihistamines: Some antihistamines, commonly used to treat allergies, can cause drowsiness and affect reaction times.
  • Opioid Pain Medications: Opioid pain medications, including strong analgesics, can cause drowsiness and dizziness, and impair cognitive functions.
  • Antidepressants: Certain antidepressants, particularly those in the category of tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs), can have sedating effects.
  • Antipsychotics: Medications used to treat certain mental health conditions, such as antipsychotics, can cause drowsiness, impaired concentration, and slowed reaction times.
  • Anti-anxiety Medications: Benzodiazepines and other anti-anxiety medications can cause drowsiness and affect coordination.
  • Anticonvulsants: Medications used to treat seizures (anticonvulsants) can sometimes cause drowsiness and impact cognitive function.
  • Muscle Relaxants: Muscle relaxants can cause drowsiness and impair motor skills.
  • Certain Blood Pressure Medications: Some blood pressure medications, especially those that cause low blood pressure, can lead to dizziness and fainting, affecting the ability to drive safely.
  • Certain Diabetes Medications: Some medications used to manage diabetes, particularly those that can cause low blood sugar (hypoglycemia), may lead to dizziness and impaired concentration.
  • Cough and Cold Medications: Over-the-counter cough and cold medications may contain ingredients that cause drowsiness. It’s important to read labels and choose non-drowsy alternatives if you need to drive.
  • Antiemetics: Medications used to prevent or treat nausea and vomiting (antiemetics) can cause drowsiness.

It’s crucial to note that individual responses to medications can vary, and some people may experience more pronounced effects than others. If you are taking a prescription drug and are unsure about its impact on your ability to drive, it’s advisable to consult with your healthcare provider. They can guide the potential side effects and whether it is safe for you to operate a vehicle while taking the prescription drug.

Additionally, if you are a commercial truck driver, be aware of regulations regarding the use of medications and driving. Some medications may be restricted or prohibited for commercial drivers due to known side effects and safety concerns. Always follow the advice of your healthcare provider and inform them if you have concerns about the impact of medication on your ability to drive safely.

Can Prescription Drugs Affect Your Driving Skills?

driver after taking a prescription drug

Yes, prescription drugs can affect your driving. Many medications have side effects that can impair cognitive function, motor skills, and overall alertness, making it unsafe to operate a vehicle. Some common side effects of prescription drugs that may impact driving include:

  • Drowsiness or Fatigue: Many medications, such as certain antihistamines, muscle relaxants, and sedatives, can cause drowsiness or fatigue, which can impair reaction times and attention.
  • Dizziness or Lightheadedness: Some medications, including certain blood pressure medications and antipsychotics, can cause dizziness or lightheadedness, affecting coordination and balance.
  • Impaired Coordination: Medications such as muscle relaxants, anti-anxiety drugs, and certain pain medications can impair fine motor skills and coordination.
  • Blurred Vision: Certain medications may cause blurred vision or other visual disturbances, affecting the ability to see clearly and judge distances.
  • Impaired Concentration and Alertness: Medications that affect the central nervous system, such as some antidepressants, antipsychotics, and anti-seizure medications, can impact concentration and alertness.
  • Delayed Reaction Time: Medications that cause sedation or have a calming effect, including some antianxiety drugs and opioid pain medications, may lead to delayed reaction times.
  • Difficulty Judging Speed and Distance: Some medications may affect cognitive functions related to judgment, making it difficult to accurately judge the speed and distance of other vehicles on the road.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the use of two or more drugs together, or within a short time frame, can be dangerous and seriously impair driving ability. Studies have shown that polypharmacy and polysubstance use, or the use of other medications at the same time, can pose a higher risk because the effects from combined medicines may be stronger and more unpredictable.


How to Practice Safe Driving While on Prescription Medications

It’s important for individuals taking prescription medications to be aware of potential side effects and how they may impact driving. Here are some important considerations for safe driving:

    • Read Medication Labels: Pay attention to warnings and side effects listed on packaging information. If a medication indicates that it may cause drowsiness or impair judgment, it’s essential to exercise caution when driving.

    • Consult Healthcare Provider: Before starting a new medicine, discuss with your healthcare provider the potential impact on your ability to drive. Be open about your lifestyle, including any need to operate a motor vehicle.

    • Monitor Side Effects: Pay attention to how your body responds to the medication. If you experience side effects that could affect driving, inform your healthcare provider promptly.

    • Avoid Alcohol: Alcohol can interact with medications and exacerbate their effects. It’s advisable to avoid alcohol while taking prescription and OTC drugs like allergy medicines, especially if you plan to drive.

    • Follow Healthcare Advice: Get advice from a healthcare provider and follow directions regarding the timing of medication doses and whether it is safe for you to drive while taking a particular medication.

    • Plan Ahead: If you plan to drink alcohol or use drugs that can impair driving or cause next-day impairment, make plans so that you do not have to get behind the wheel.

    • Have a Designated Driver: If you’re going out with a group, discuss who among you will be the designated driver who won’t drink alcohol or use drugs.

    • Get a Ride: If you have been drinking and/or taking medicine, book a rideshare service, get a taxi, or hitch a ride with a driver who has not been drinking alcohol or using medication.


If you have concerns about the impact of prescription medication on your ability to drive safely, it’s crucial to consult with your healthcare provider before getting behind the wheel. They can guide you on adjusting medication schedules, exploring alternative treatments, or taking other measures to mitigate any potential risk and ensure your safety on the road. Additionally, if you are a commercial truck driver, be aware of regulations regarding the use of medications and driving, as certain medications may be restricted or prohibited.


Commonly Used Over-the-Counter Medications Can Put Drivers at Risk

Commercial truck drivers, like all drivers, should be cautious when using over-the-counter medications, as some of these medications may have side effects that can impact their ability to operate motor vehicles and heavy machinery safely. When in doubt, seeking guidance from a health care professional is the best course of action.

Specifically ask the healthcare provider about the medication’s potential impact on driving. Inquire if there are any restrictions or recommendations regarding driving while taking the medication. Inform the healthcare provider about your lifestyle, including any activities that require alertness and coordination, such as driving. This information can help them make appropriate recommendations.

Inform your employer about new medicine you are taking. Some medications may have implications for safety-sensitive positions. Additionally, adherence to regulations and policies related to drug use and driving is essential for commercial drivers. Avoid drinking alcohol and illicit substances while taking medication. Pay attention to changes in how new medicine affects you over time. Some side effects may diminish or become more pronounced as your body adjusts.

How Often Does Drugged Driving Cause Crashes?

The prevalence of drugged driving and its contribution to crashes can vary based on factors such as location, demographic characteristics, and changes in drug use patterns. It’s important to note that the detection and reporting of drugged driving incidents can be challenging, and there may be underreporting due to difficulties in identifying specific drugs in drivers involved in crashes.

According to the Berkeley Safe Transportation Research and Education Center (SafeTREC), the use of prescription drugs along with cannabis and illicit drugs has become more prevalent on American roadways, with 25.3% of 38,824 fatalities in 2020 being related to drug-impaired driving.

Driving can be impaired by a variety of legal and illegal drugs, substances, and medications. The effect of these drugs on driving skills and behavior varies depending on how are metabolized. In most instances, prescribed medications can affet cognitive function, cause drowsiness, slow reaction time, reduce coordination, and induce aggressive and reckless driving. All of these effects can contribute to a risk of accidents and potentially fatal crashes.

prescription drugs

According to national data, many drivers have been involved in drug-related road accidents:

    • In 2020, 9,818 individuals were killed in drug-involved crashes, up 1.6% from 9,661 in 2019, and up 7.4% from 9,140 in 2016.

    • Out of fatally injured drivers with known drug tests, 53.1% of drivers testing positive for drugs, both legal and illicit, were identified.
    • 37% of individuals who reported driving while on drugs within the past year also drove under the influence of alcohol in the same period, according to the National Survey of Drug Use and Health.


The Consequences of Impaired Driving

Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, including OTC medicine, increases the risk of accidents. Impaired judgment, reduced reaction times, and decreased coordination can contribute to collisions. Driving impairment poses serious risks, especially for commercial truck drivers operating motor vehicles and heavy machinery.

The consequences can have severe legal, professional, and safety implications if an accident takes place:

  • DUI/DWI Charges: Commercial truck drivers can face Driving Under the Influence (DUI) or Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) charges if caught operating a vehicle under the influence of alcohol or impairing substances. It would be necessary to work with an attorney to fight a DUI charge.
  • License Suspension or Revocation: A DUI/DWI conviction can lead to the suspension or revocation of a commercial driver’s license (CDL). This can significantly impact a driver’s ability to work in the industry.
  • Fines and Penalties: DUI/DWI convictions often result in substantial fines and penalties. Commercial drivers may face more severe consequences than non-commercial drivers due to the higher standards imposed on CDL holders.
  • Disqualification from Safety-Sensitive Positions: DUI/DWI convictions can disqualify commercial drivers from safety-sensitive positions, affecting their ability to operate heavy machinery or transport hazardous materials.
  • Hazardous Materials Incidents: For commercial drivers transporting hazardous materials, impaired driving poses an even greater risk of accidents, spills, and environmental damage.
  • Endangerment of Lives: Impaired driving endangers not only the driver but also the lives of other road users. Commercial trucks have the potential to cause catastrophic accidents, leading to severe injuries and fatalities.


Get Insured Before Getting Behind the Wheel

CTI is an expert on insurance policies tailored to the needs and concerns of commercial truck drivers and their businesses. Get a trucking insurance quote from our TRS-certified agents to find the best deals and most competitive rates. Your satisfaction is our main priority, and we provide continual support to address any questions you may have about your policy.