Types of Prescription Drugs That Can Impair Your Driving

Updated on October 26, 2023
Types of Prescription Drugs That Can Impair Your Driving

It’s no secret that driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol is dangerous and illegal. Have you ever considered the impact of prescription drugs on your driving abilities? The truth is common prescription medications can impair your driving skills, putting you and others at risk.

Do you take any of these four types of prescription drugs that can impair your driving? If so, you should be aware of how they may affect your ability to operate a vehicle safely.

Sedatives and Sleep Aids

Taking certain medications is an oft-overlooked form of driving impairment. Sedatives and sleep aids are prime examples of this. These medications help with anxiety, insomnia, or other sleep disorders, but they can also cause drowsiness, dizziness, and slowed reaction times.

If you’re taking a sedative or sleep aid, be aware of the potential impact it can have on your ability to drive safely. Talk to your doctor about your medication and whether it’s safe for you to drive while taking it.


Antidepressants are commonly prescribed for people experiencing depression, anxiety, or other mental health conditions. While they can be life-changing for some people, antidepressants may affect driving abilities. Some side effects include dizziness, blurred vision, and difficulty concentrating. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs)—Prozac, Zoloft, or Lexapro—and tricyclic antidepressants (TCA)—Elavil or Tofranil—are examples of medications that might cause such side effects.

Opioid Pain Relievers

Opioid pain relievers are potent medications for managing severe or chronic pain. Examples include morphine, oxycodone, or hydrocodone. While they can be very effective in relieving pain, they can also lead to drowsiness, dizziness, and impaired cognitive function. These effects can impact driving abilities and make it unsafe to be behind the wheel.

Antihistamines and Decongestants

It might surprise you to learn that over-the-counter allergy medications can impact your driving skills. Many antihistamines and decongestants can cause drowsiness, decreased alertness, and slow reaction times. Some examples include diphenhydramine (Benadryl) and pseudoephedrine (Sudafed). Read the labels of over-the-counter medications, and look for warnings against driving or operating heavy machinery.

These are just a few examples of prescription drugs that can impair your driving. Always read the labels and talk to your doctor about potential side effects before getting behind the wheel while taking prescription medicine. If you’re concerned about how a medication may affect your ability to drive safely, consider finding alternative transportation or delaying your trip until you feel more alert and focused. Your safety and the safety of others on the road should always be a top priority.

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