Safe driving requires concentration, alertness and an ability to react in a coordinated and timely fashion. Some prescription meds can impair you as much as alcohol, which is a form of distracted driving. So what medications should you be concerned about?
Be careful of these classes of drugs:
1. Pain relievers. The obvious culprits are opiates such as morphine and codeine, can cause sleepiness, dizziness, euphoria, and disorientation. For a day or so after intense pain has subsided, have someone else drive you or take public transportation.
2. Antihistamines. In the old days, all antihistamine medications made you sleepy. Nowadays, we have nondrowsy choices such as Claritin, Allegra and Zyrtec. Some people think all antihistamines are nondrowsy now, and forget to read the label.
3. Antidepressants. Some antidepressants can cause drowsiness and a slowness of reaction time in some patients. Those two or three extra seconds for braking could mean all the difference. Others, can cause insomnia, which will make you tired and slow during the day. Hold off driving for a few days when you first start, but for most people, their body will acclimate. If you find the drowsiness does not go away, try taking your medications at night so that the peak time of effect will be when you are sleeping.
4. Antihypertensives. Blood pressure medications may cause listlessness, especially the beta blockers.
5. Anti-anxiety agents and muscle relaxants. Prescription medications such as Valium and Xanax may have a tranquilizing effect that can impair judgment and reaction times.
6. Stimulants. You would think a drug that perks you up (ie. caffeine pills, Red Bull) would be good to take before driving. If you have body revving substances in you and are feeling more energetic than usual, you may not have the ability to concentrate.