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What Common Medicine Might Affect Your Driving?



Most people rely on medications to overcome illnesses at some point in their lives. About 48 percent of Americans take prescription medications each month. Close to 11 percent of them take up to five different medications for prolonged periods of time.

While most pharmaceutical products are tested extensively for side effects, certain complications are unavoidable. Various prescription and over-the-counter medications may cause changes in your body which impact your ability to perform everyday activities such as sleeping, driving, and eating. In fact, recent years have seen a significant increase in fatal crashes related to drug use.

A study by the Office of National Drug Control Policy has found that one in three drivers involved in fatal crashes used illegal drugs, prescription medications, or over-the-counter drugs. Common side effects that can directly impact your driving include:

  • Altered movement
  • Delayed response
  • Lack of focus
  • Dizziness
  • Insomnia or excessive sleep
  • Fainting

You should, therefore, discuss the adverse reactions of your medications with your doctor before taking them and adjust your lifestyle accordingly. This is especially true for individuals taking the following drugs:

Allergy medications

Allergic reactions such as the runny nose and itchy eyes occur due to chemicals known as histamines that are produced by your immune system. Anti-histamines found in most allergy medications suppress the activity of this chemical. They also interact with your central nervous system to promote drowsiness. The impact may be short-term or may last for several hours.

Cold and cough medications

Experts also recommend individuals taking over-the-counter cold and cough medications to avoid driving for up to 12 hours. They contain dextromethorphan which can suppress your central nervous system and lead to blurred vision, disorientation, and drowsiness. Many cough medications also contain alcohol that can add to the problem.

Diarrhea medications

Individuals taking over-the-counter anti-diarrhea drugs may also experience drowsiness and dizziness about one to three hours after taking the medication. The side effects may last for up to eight hours.


Certain prescription pain killers can numb your pain and impair your judgment as well. Some of them can also make you sleepy.

Sleeping pills

If you take prescription medications for insomnia, allow eight to ten hours for the effects of the medication to wean off. Your doctor may ask you to avoid driving for at least 12 hours.


Prescription antidepressants also interact directly with your central nervous system. Many of them can have a sedating effect which can impact your ability to drive safely and make quick decisions.

Muscle relaxants

Muscle relaxants are similar to prescription pain killers. They suppress the ability of your muscles to respond quickly. Your reflexes may, therefore, become weak.

Attention deficiency medications

There are several types of attention deficiency medications in the market. While some of them can make you hyperactive, others can suppress the central nervous system and make you drowsy or dizzy. It is important to understand their impact on your body before driving.

Your safety and the safety of others on the street will essentially depend on your good judgment. There are several alternatives to driving including public transportation systems and work from home jobs. If the medications are for temporary ailments, consider taking a break. Chronic use may involve changes in lifestyle. Talk to your doctor before driving under the influence of medications.