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What Prescription Drugs Impair Driving?

Posted December 18, 2018 | Uncategorized

What prescription drugs affect driving?

Driving under the influence (DUI) does not only refer to driving drunk. Driving after taking prescription medications or illegal drugs can also result in a DUI. Many drivers mistakenly believe taking prescription drugs before driving is safe, because a doctor prescribed them. Unfortunately, this leads to impaired driving and related car accidents. In one study, 20% of drivers surveyed tested positive for drugs that could impair them. Learning which prescription drugs are most commonly involved in impaired driving accidents can help you stay safe.


Cold, flu, and allergy medications tend to make patients drowsy. People often take antihistamines for sneezing, runny nose, and nasal congestion; they relieve the symptoms of many illnesses by blocking the effects of histamine, a chemical the immune system produces to fight the illness. Histamine also plays a part in the ability to feel awake. By blocking the histamines, antihistamines also tend to impact alertness.

The drowsy side effects of taking prescription or over-the-counter antihistamines could be enough to impair driving. Drowsy driving is a serious hazard. Estimates show that drowsy driving is responsible for around 70,000 car accidents per year. A medication that causes drowsiness could impair a driver enough to delay reaction time, affect judgment, or fall asleep behind the wheel. Many antihistamines contain warnings not to take the medication before operating heavy machinery.

High Blood Pressure Medications

Prescription drugs used to control high blood pressure, or alpha-adrenergic blocking agents, can also cause drowsiness in patients. High blood pressure medications slow the heartbeat and reduce nerve impulses, potentially making the user drowsier than usual. These drugs may also cause dizziness, which can be dangerous while driving. Dizziness while driving could make a driver lose control of the vehicle and crash into other vehicles or objects.


Medications to combat diarrhea often cause drowsiness, due the presence of the active ingredient loperamide, which may cause dizziness, nausea, and vomiting. If you are not sure how antidiarrheal medication will affect you, take it first when you will not have to drive.

Anti-Anxiety Medications

Anti-anxiety mediations that contain benzodiazepines can cause drowsiness or muscle weakness for hours or days at a time. Common benzodiazepines include alprazolam (Xanax), diazepam (Valium), lorazepam (Ativan), and clonazepam (Klonopin).

Chemotherapy Drugs

Physicians often recommend that cancer patients have someone else drive them from the hospital, as several cancer treatments can cause drowsiness. Chemotherapy drugs change the hormone and protein levels in the body. They may also destroy some non-cancer cells, forcing your body to spend extra energy on repairs. These effects can result in drowsiness that may impair driving.

Drugs With Stimulants

Some prescription medications intended to keep patients awake can have the opposite effect. A patient taking drugs or products with stimulants such as ephedrine, pseudoephedrine, or caffeine could experience a crash from the stimulants while driving, in which he or she experiences drowsiness or falls asleep.

Pain Relievers

Prescription pain relief medications such as OxyContin, Vicodin, and morphine list drowsiness as a potential side effect. Taking pain relievers before driving could be dangerous. Always read the label and obey the warnings. How the drug affects you and for how long will depend on you. Test a new pain reliever at home before you take the drug and drive. Impaired driving is against the law in Utah and can cause a serious accident.

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