Can I Drive Safely While on Prescription Drugs?

Posted on: September 13, 2021

When shopping in a local or national chain drugstore, one may be surprised to see what was once a prescription drug is now being offered as an over-the counter (OTC) medication. OTC drugs do not require a doctor’s prescription. Some OTC drugs, such as allergy medications, need a pharmacist to provide them to the customer. In some stores, no help is necessary to buy it or intercede to warn the user.

Since 1976, at least 106 ingredients have moved from prescription to OTC. This means that at least 700 formerly prescription-only drugs are now freely available.

This increase in OTC products is not just marketing, where OTC status can make the drug more profitable. Label warnings are still very important, especially for drivers. Impaired driving is a leading cause of car accidents.

In 2015, the National Highway Traffic Study Administration (NHTSA) conducted a roadside survey and found that 10 percent of the daytime drivers were using prescription or OTC drugs.

Drugs of All Types can be Addictive

News reports mention celebrities who have fought prescription drug addiction. Comedian and actress Kathy Griffin said that her prescription drug abuse was more frightening than the lung cancer she had.

Prescription drugs are not the only addictive drugs. Although OTC drugs do not have addictive ingredients per se, the health relief the OTC medications provide is addictive in a real sense.

As an example, many people suffer allergies that lead to coughing or itchy eyes or running noses. Drugs that were formerly prescriptions are now OTC, such as Allegra. In Allegra’s case, it was a prescription medicine until 2011 when the FDA approved it as an OTC. Its formulation was not changed, and its label warnings are the same. Some allergy sufferers are dependent on Allegra to relieve the symptoms that can give them a really bad day.

When taking a prescribed drug, one may heed the label warnings, especially if the doctor instructs them to do so. However, with an OTC drug, the consumer selects the product off the shelf and uses it, hopefully as directed. Only a helpful pharmacist or doctor can reinforce the label warnings.

Impaired Driving

OTC drugs can lead to impaired activities. There is a lot to consider when taking a prescription drug and then driving a car.

Without prescription or OTC drugs, a driver can experience impairments to safe driving. A fitful night before can mean sleepiness. An overwhelming experience can lead to distractive thoughts. The monotony of the road can cause a lack of concentration.

Risks for hazardous driving are not minimized with taking medications. How to curtail these risks is the responsibility of the driver and their passengers.

Driving Safely When Using Medications

Medications include prescribed drugs, OTC drugs, supplements, and now cannabidiol (CBD) products.  Not taking prescriptions does not eliminate the risks or problems when driving when taking another formula instead.

Prescription drugs. Taking prescribed medicines definitely has an effect on safe driving. AAA reported that some 50 percent of Americans take or took one or more drugs within the past month. More than 30 percent took two or more medications, and more than 10 percent took three or more drugs. Individual prescribed drugs have identifiable label warnings, and when taken with other drugs, the unintended effects can be more numerous and more serious.

About 46 percent of drivers in fatal car accidents were in some way compromised by taking prescription drugs.

Yet only 28 percent of drivers see driving with prescribed drugs a serious risk. Compare this 28 percent with the finding that 66 percent of people see driving under the influence of alcohol a serious threat and 56 percent identifying illegal drugs as a serious risk.

Some suggestions can allow a driver taking prescription medications to still drive safely.

Initially there are certain medications with severe or dangerous side effects to preclude driving. Using any of the following medications is a sure sign to get another driver or take a taxi or public transportation instead:

  • Muscle relaxers
    • Anti-seizure medications
    • Antidepressants or anxiety drugs
    • Opioids
    • Stimulants
    • Antipsychotics
    • Sleeping pills

Prescribed sleeping pills are more potent than those on the shelves. The key ingredient is zolpidem, which is in the class of medications known as sedative-hypnotics. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) determined that zolpidem can impair a person well into the following morning. Check all sleeping pills for this very potent ingredient.

Next read the warning label and heed the warnings. A warning that the drug can cause drowsiness or tiredness must be taken seriously. The driver may only feel moderately tired but have their response time reduced. Vehicle collisions involve seconds in time. Losing any response time is critical.

When picking up prescriptions from the pharmacy, do not be afraid to ask questions. These are pharmaceutical formulations with known side effects that the pharmacist can explain. Even better, when the doctor is writing the prescription, ask about whether it is safe to drive while taking the drug. This is important because a medicine may take time to reach full effectiveness, so that in the first days the driver may not feel the potency or side effects. A motorist should not try to drive until they determine their own reactions to the drug.

It goes without saying, liquor and any kind of prescription drugs do not mix. Even if one feels comfortable driving while on medication, do not drink, even when not driving.

Last, driving when taking prescription drugs can lead to a police stop for impaired driving. The basis of the violation is operating a car while impaired. If one believes they can safely operate the car, they should carry a list of the medications to show the officer.

Can one safely drive while taking prescription drugs? It all depends on how the medicines affect the driver and the driver’s operating abilities. Do not overlook the signs of side effects such as yawning, nodding off, loss of concentration, and the like.

Non-prescription medications. OTC drugs, supplements, and CBD products can have the same or similar side effects that can impair a driver. Motorists should not be fooled into believing that only prescriptions dangerously interact with driving. The warnings on labels should not be taken lightly if the product is on the shelf or at the vitamin store or CBD shop.

Hazlet Car Accident Lawyers at Mikita & Roccanova Fight on Behalf of Accident Victims Injured by Drivers on Drugs

Not all drivers follow the warnings of side effects from prescribed or OTC drugs and supplements or CDB products. If you or a loved one has been injured in a car accident, reach out to the Hazlet car accident lawyers at Mikita & Roccanova. We can help you understand your rights and work tirelessly to secure you the compensation you deserve. Call us at 732-705-3363 or contact us online today to schedule a free consultation. Located in Hazlet and Highland Park, New Jersey, we serve clients in Ocean County and Sussex County, and Pennsylvania.