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Can you be impaired on prescription medication?

Driving is a difficult task, one which requires clear decision-making skills, quick reaction times, clear vision, and good motor functions. Unfortunately, many drivers assume that if they have not consumed large quantities of alcohol then they are safe to operate a motorized vehicle. There are, however, a number of factors which can decrease the ability of a person to safely operate a motorized vehicle, including taking prescription medications.

Will my prescription drugs impair my driving?

While it’s true that some medications may make it safer for certain drivers to drive; other do not. It’s important to understand the effects that your medications have on your ability to drive as well as your state’s laws for safely operating your vehicle.

Most drivers know that it is illegal to operate a motorized vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08% or higher, they may not know, however, their state’s drug laws. For example, in the state of Michigan it is illegal for drivers to operate a motorized vehicle with any amount of cocaine or any type of Schedule 1 controlled substance in their blood.

And although the medication you are taking may not be specifically listed as illegal in your state’s statutes, it is also important to understand how it affects your ability to drive. You can do this by reading the safety warnings on the packaging and talking to your doctor about the possible negative side-effects of your medications.

Considerations before driving

Many drivers assume that if they are taking a prescription medication or an over-the-counter product that it must be safe for them to drive. Unfortunately, this is not always true. In fact, common medications such as cold and allergy medications, anxiety medications, sleeping pills, pain killers, and tranquilizers may increase drowsiness to the point it is unsafe to operate a car.

Another consideration is the negative side-effects of drug interactions. You may have taken a medication for years without any difficulty driving, but adding a new medication could have negative side-effects, such as increasing your risk of sedation, impairing your vision, decreasing your ability to hear, making you nauseous, decreasing your ability to concentrate, lowering your blood pressure, or decreasing your co-ordination.

How do I ensure I drive safely while taking my medications?

Many drivers can take their prescribed medications and safely operate their motorized vehicle. Other drivers, however, should carefully consider whether they should drive. There are, however, several steps you can take to increase your safety:

-Discuss your medications with your doctor and determine whether it is safe for you to drive.
-Always take your medications according to the packaged directions.
-Tell your doctor if you start or stop taking any medications.
-Ask how long it will take for your body to adjust to any new medications.
-Ask if you are authorized to drink alcohol while on your medications.
-Ask your doctor before taking any over the counter medications.
-Do not take anyone else’s medications.
-Discuss what types of medications increase the risk of injury or death while you drive.

Common prescription medications which may impair driving

Common medications which can decrease your ability to drive include Benzodiazepines (such as oxazepam, diazepam or clonazepam), Tricyclic antidepressants, SSRI antidepressants, Venlafaxine (SNRI) antidepressant, certain blood pressure medications, certain anti-nausea drugs, anti-epilepsy drugs, and diuretics.


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