These medications could make driving dangerous, the FDA warns

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It’s become common knowledge that drinking and driving don’t mix — but should you get behind the wheel after popping a pill?

It depends on the type of medication, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

While most medicines are safe to take on the go, some may cause side effects that can interfere with the ability to operate a vehicle or heavy machinery, the agency warned in a notice on its website.

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These side effects can include drowsiness, dizziness, blurred vision, fainting, lack of coordination, nausea, inability to focus or pay attention, and excitability, the FDA noted.

“Some medicines can affect your driving for a short time after you take them,” the notice stated. “For others, the effects can last for several hours and even into the next day.”

Woman drowsy driving

Some medications may cause side effects that can interfere with your ability to operate a vehicle, the FDA warned. (iStock)

Some medicines come with a warning to not operate a vehicle or operate heavy machinery for a certain period of time after taking them.

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“Many different types of medications — such as antipsychotics, anti-epileptic medications, stimulants, muscle relaxants, opioids, benzodiazepines, sleeping pills, some antidepressants, and even over-the-counter medications like antihistamines — can cause side effects that impair mental and motor functions, including fatigue, headaches, nausea, blurred vision, delayed reaction times and visual impairment,” Katy Dubinsky, a New York pharmacist and the CEO and co-founder of Vitalize, a private supplement company, told Fox News Digital. 

“These side effects significantly reduce alertness and clear vision, which are crucial for safely driving and performing everyday tasks,” she added.

pain medication

Some medicines come with a warning to not operate a vehicle or operate heavy machinery for a certain period of time after taking them. (iStock)

Dr. Shana Johnson, a physical medicine and rehabilitation physician in Scottsdale, Arizona, noted that central nervous system depressants can be particularly dangerous for driving — as these medications exert their effects by calming the brain. 

“Side effects associated with this calming include sleepiness, loss of focus and fuzzy thinking,” she told Fox News Digital. 

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“Common examples of this class are medications for muscle spasms (muscle relaxants), pain (opioids), seizures (anti-seizure medications) and anxiety (benzodiazepines).” 

Two other classes of medications that have sedating effects are antihistamines used for allergy control and anticholinergics used for bladder control and chronic pain, Johnson added.

Medications that don’t mix with driving

The FDA website includes the following list of medications that could make it dangerous to drive.

  • Antipsychotic medicines
  • Anti-seizure medicines (antiepileptic drugs)
  • Diet pills, “stay awake” medicines and other stimulants, including caffeine, ephedrine and pseudoephedrine
  • Medicines that treat or control symptoms of diarrhea and urine or bladder control
  • Medicines that treat or prevent symptoms of motion sickness
  • Muscle relaxants
  • Opioids, including some cough suppressants containing codeine and hydrocodone
  • Prescription medicines for anxiety (for example, benzodiazepines)
  • Sleeping pills
  • Some antidepressants
  • Some prescription and over-the-counter (OTC) cold remedies and allergy medicines that contain antihistamines, nighttime sleep aids or cough medicines
  • Products containing cannabis or cannabis-derived compounds, including CBD
Man driving drowsy

Some medication side effects can include drowsiness, dizziness, blurred vision, fainting, lack of coordination, nausea, inability to focus or pay attention and excitability, the FDA noted. (iStock)

Taking sleep medicines at night can sometimes cause impaired driving the next day, the FDA warned.

“If you take sleep drugs, talk with your health care professional about ways to take the lowest effective dose, when to take the medicines before bedtime, and when it would be safe to drive again after taking a sleep medicine,” the agency advised.

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Allergy medications may contain antihistamines that can also impede driving ability, the FDA added.

“Antihistamines can slow your reaction time, make it hard to focus or think clearly, and may cause mild confusion even if you don’t feel drowsy.”

Cropped picture of young woman holding a glass with water and pills in her hands

One doctor tells patients to try a new medication when they don’t have plans to drive — so they can see how it affects them and potentially avoid any dangerous situations.  (iStock)

Johnson said the impact of medications on driving abilities may vary from person to person. 

“One person may feel no sleepiness with an antihistamine, while another may feel sleepy the whole day,” she told Fox News Digital. 

“Seeing how a medication affects you is important to know before driving on it.”

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In her practice, Johnson said she tells her patients to try a new medication when they don’t have plans to drive — so they can see how it affects them and avoid a dangerous situation. 

“The risk of medications impairing driving increases if you are on multiple medications with sedating side effects and with older adults,” she added.

Preventing impaired driving

For those who are taking medications, it’s recommended to consult with a health care professional for guidance related to driving.

For over-the-counter medicines, the agency recommends always following directions for use and reading the warnings on the Drug Facts label. 

Man at doctor

For those taking medications, it’s recommended to consult with a health care professional for guidance related to driving. (iStock)

For prescription medications, the agency recommends following the directions and warnings on packaging, as well as reading the FDA-approved labeling.

“Your health care professional might be able to change your dose, adjust the timing of when you take the medicine, or switch the medicine to one that causes fewer side effects for you,” the FDA stated.

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It’s also important to tell your doctor about other medicines, vitamins or supplements you are taking, as it’s possible that they could impact any side effects.

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