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Meds and you

07 August 2019

The dangers of driving under the influence of medicine

Driving under the influence of alcohol is dangerous and illegal, but how dangerous is it to drive under the influence of medication?

Be careful about what medications you take before you get behind the wheel.

Most drugs won't affect your ability to drive, but some prescription and over-the-counter (OTC) medicines can cause side effects that make it unsafe to drive, the US Food and Drug Administration warns.

Warnings on labels

Those side effects can include: sleepiness/drowsiness, blurred vision, dizziness, slowed movement, fainting, inability to focus or pay attention, nausea and excitability.

Some medicines can affect your driving ability for just a short time after you take them, but the effects of others can last for several hours, or even into the next day.

Some medicine labels warn to not operate heavy machinery when taking them, and this includes driving a car, the FDA said in a news release.

There are a number of types of medications – or any combination of them – that can make it dangerous to drive or operate any type of vehicle whether a car, bus, train, plane or boat.

These drugs include: opioid pain relievers; prescription drugs for anxiety (for example, benzodiazepines); anti-seizure drugs (antiepileptic drugs); antipsychotic drugs; some antidepressants; products that contain codeine; some cold remedies and allergy products such as antihistamines (both prescription and OTC); sleeping pills; muscle relaxants; medicines to treat or control symptoms of diarrhoea or motion sickness; diet pills; "stay awake" drugs, and other medications with stimulants (such as caffeine, ephedrine, pseudoephedrine).

Don't stop using your medicine

Also, never drive when you've combined medication and alcohol, the FDA stressed.

Ask your doctor or pharmacist about medication side effects, including those that interfere with driving, and/or ask for printed information about the side effects of any new medicine.

To manage or minimise medication side effects that can affect driving, your health care provider may be able to adjust your dose, adjust the timing of when you take the medicine, or change the medicine to one that causes fewer side effects, the FDA said.

Always follow a medication's directions for use and read warnings on the packaging or on handouts provided by the pharmacy.

Tell your health care provider about all health products you are taking, including prescription, non-prescription and herbal products, and also about any reactions you experience.

Don't stop using a medicine unless told to do so by your doctor, the FDA said.

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