What kinds of prescription medication can cause driver impairment?

prescription drug bottles and pillsImpaired driving is most often associated with behavior that is against the law—drinking and driving or using illegal drugs. However, prescription and over-the-counter medications can also affect a driver’s ability to operate a vehicle safely. Even when approved by a doctor and taken appropriately, some medications affect drivers in a way that can cause dangerous car accidents.

Prescription Drugs That Can Affect Driving Safety

It’s important to note that medications can affect people very differently. Some drugs and dosages can impair one driver, while another driver may feel little or no effect at all. This is why all drivers should take extra care when considering driving after taking a medication. Some medications that can impair a driver’s ability include:

  • Allergy medication. Antihistamines and other allergy medicines block histamine release to help reduce the inflammation that causes allergy symptoms. This also works in the brain, however, and can lead to drowsiness
  • Antidepressants. While it is generally considered acceptable to drive while taking an antidepressant (such as Zoloft or Paxil), researchers have reported that these medications and the conditions that warrant their use can affect driving. The type of antidepressant, dosing level, age of the driver, and presence of depressive symptoms can increase the risk of impairment. Additionally, some of these medications also cause drowsiness.
  • Pain medication. Opioids are the most common medication used for pain management today. Drugs like oxycodone, hydrocodone, codeine, and morphine are effective in easing pain, but they also can be accompanied by a number of side effects that can impair driving. Sleepiness, nausea, difficulty breathing, and confusion are all dangerous behind the wheel.
  • Sleep aids. Many people use a sleep aid to help fall and stay asleep. While they can be effective in getting people to sleep, these aids can affect people the next day. The Cleveland Clinic specifically warns that being too drowsy to drive the next morning safely is a possible side effect. Used over time, these medications can also lead to memory problems and mental disorders, both of which increase the risk of car crashes.

In addition to medicines prescribed by a doctor, the Federal Drug Administrations (FDA) warns that even over-the-counter medications and herbal remedies can cause reactions that jeopardize safe driving. Also, interactions between prescription drugs can impair driving ability. Drivers who do take medication should discuss the possible effects on driving with the doctor and pharmacist. All drivers have a duty to behave responsibly behind the wheel, and understanding how a drug may affect you is an important element of safe driving.

If you or someone you love has suffered injuries in a crash caused by an impaired driver, you have a right to be compensated. Attorney Ben Crittenden has helped many Alaska victims obtain the compensation they deserved after an accident. Call his Anchorage office today or take a moment to fill out the contact form on this page to learn more about who he is and what he does.