January 9, 2023

Types of Prescription Drugs That Affect Driving

Find an Experienced Norristown Car Accident Lawyer at Anthony C. Gagliano III.

Driving under the influence of certain prescription drugs is just as illegal as drinking and driving. Many prescription drugs have side effects that impair and include warnings about their effects. Choosing to drive while on these medications could bring a criminal charge for driving under the influence.

Consuming an alcoholic beverage or mixing medication can intensify the already-impairing effects. Something as simple as cough syrup mixed with your prescription medication might amplify the side effects and impair you to the point that it is too dangerous to drive.

Read the warning labels on any prescription or over-the-counter medications that you might take. If they affect your ability to drive, the warning label should tell you and list other precautions.

The following are among the most commonly prescribed prescription drugs that affect people’s driving ability.

Pain Medication

A wide variety of pain relievers can affect your focus and timing while driving. Opioids are among the most commonly prescribed pain relievers and are manufactured in a variety of types and dosages.

Taking too many could have an intoxicating effect. Even a prescribed dose might be enough to make you feel drowsy and impair your ability to drive. An inability to concentrate while driving could cause you to run a red light, mistime a turn, or run into another motorist are just a few of those ways.

Muscle Relaxers

Soft tissue injuries often result in prescriptions for muscle relaxers that help injured soft tissue to heal. Muscle relaxers help to treat tension, cramping, and muscle spasms.

Muscle relaxers slow your heart rate and could lower your blood pressure. The effects slow down your brain and make it harder to react to sudden changes in driving conditions.

Muscle relaxers are not intoxicating, but they can make you feel drowsy. Drinking alcohol can intensify that effect and make it very dangerous to drive.


Commonly prescribed antidepressants can be SSRIs (under brands like Lexapro, Celexa, Prozac, Zoloft, and Paxil, etc), NDRIs (Norepinephrine and Dopamine Reuptake Inhibitors like Wellbutrin, Zyban, etc.) SNRIs (Serotonin and Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors like Cymbalta, Effexor, Pristiq, etc.,) or Serotonin antagonist and reuptake inhibitors (SARIs like Trazodone and Nefazodone,) all of which treat anxiety and depression that could come from a variety of sources. Even though you might take an antidepressant every day, you must read the label carefully before you drive, operate heavy machinery, or use power tools.

Many antidepressants cause drowsiness, confusion, and dizziness that greatly affect your ability to drive. They impair your judgment and slow down your reaction time. You might develop blurry vision as a side effect as well.

Taking too many antidepressants can make driving just as dangerous as driving under the influence of alcohol. The effects are so similar that you could be pulled over for suspicion of drunk driving despite having no alcohol in your system. A blood test, though, could pinpoint the problem and trigger a charge for driving under the influence.


Those who have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, sleep apnea, or narcolepsy might be prescribed a stimulant by their doctor. Doctors prescribe stimulants for a variety of conditions.

Stimulants can impair your ability to drive and affect your judgment while behind the wheel. You might find yourself driving faster than normal and possibly run a red light or a stop sign or make poor judgment calls while behind the wheel.

Whenever a doctor prescribes a stimulant, you should discuss how it might affect your ability to drive before you take it. A warning label also should indicate its potential effects on your driving ability.

It always is best to wait until the medication has worn off before you drive. If you are stopped for suspicion of driving while under the influence, you might have to provide a blood sample that would reveal the existence of the stimulant.


Antihistamines are commonly prescribed medications during cold and flu season. They also treat allergies and can make it easier to breathe. Antihistamines can make you drowsy, dizzy, or feel fatigued. They also can make you feel confused, reduce your focus, and make your vision blurry.

All of those effects are dangerous on their own. Any combination of them can make driving especially dangerous, especially when compounded with other medications or alcohol.


Prescriptions for high blood pressure might be for an antihypertensive that helps to lower your blood pressure. Beta-blockers are one of the most commonly prescribed antihypertension medications and can make the patient feel drowsy and dizzy. They also can cause blurry vision.

Other types of antihypertension medication could have different effects. It is important to consult with your doctor regarding the potential effect on your ability to drive or operate heavy machinery.

Pill Organizers Help Prevent Accidental Dosages

It is very easy to accidentally overdose on prescription medication. You might get distracted while taking your usual prescribed dosage and forget that you took your prescribed dosage. Taking another could double your dosage and its effect on your motor skills.

You also might accidentally take two or more prescription drugs that create a bad reaction. If you are taking multiple prescription drugs on a daily basis, some precautions could help you to prevent bad reactions.

Using a pill organizer that holds your daily dosage is a great way to prevent accidental overdoses. You can place the dosage for morning and night for each day of the week.

Planning your doses of prescription drugs up to a week in advance can help prevent accidental overdoses. It also helps you avoid accidentally mixing medications in ways that could cause an unexpected reaction.

Find an Experienced Norristown Car Accident Lawyer at Anthony C. Gagliano III

Your best efforts to drive safely might not be enough to prevent another driver from causing an accident. An experienced Norristown car accident lawyer at Anthony C. Gagliano III, P.C., can help. Call us today at 267-861-7100 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation at our law offices in Philadelphia and King of Prussia, Pennsylvania. We represent clients in Philadelphia, Montgomery County, Delaware County, Bucks County, Chester County, and Norristown.