How Over-the-Counter Medication Can Affect Your Driving

Because over-the-counter medications aren’t controlled by doctors, many of us think of them as harmless. However, many of these medications can impact your ability to drive and driving while on certain medications can even constitute as driving under the influence.

Your pharmacist will most likely tell you which medications will affect your driving ability, but educating yourself on which medications impair your abilities is ultimately your responsibility. Many of these medications stay in your system long after you took them. Here are a few common medications that can cause impairment:

  • Medicines used to “dry up” the mucosal membranes are known as antihistamines. These medications work by blocking your body’s immune response, or histamines. These histamines trigger allergy-like symptoms when activated: runny nose, watery eyes, or coughing. The active ingredients in these medications, like diphenhydramine (found in Benadryl), can make you feel very unfocused and drowsy. They can also slow your reaction time, making it dangerous to drive.
  • A less commonly known ingredient of antidiarrheals, Loperamide (found in Imodium AD) works by slowing the movement in your intestines. While this is great for stopping an overactive bowel, it slows your brain too and results in mild impairment while driving.
  • Medication used to treat nausea and dizziness can cause impairment as well. Medications like Dramamine and Bonine contain ingredients that cause drowsiness and slowed reaction time.
  • Herbal Supplements. Many herbal medications cause slowed coordination, judgment, and attention. Herbal sedatives like Valerian and Kava Kava can cause heavy drowsiness and muscle weakness, while anti-depressants like St. John’s Wort can cause dizziness. Even mild calming supplements like chamomile can cause sleepiness and sedation.

Additionally, many OTC medications can react with each other or with prescription medications, causing unwanted side effects. Be sure to talk to your pharmacist about all other medications you are taking before buying. He or she will be able to tell you if there are any interactions. If you are taking medications for any of the following conditions, they will most likely cause reactions:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Schizophrenia
  • Pain Management
  • Severe Allergies
  • Hypoglycemia or Diabetes

Reactions with medications used to treat these symptoms can range anywhere from blurred vision, to drowsiness, to severe nausea.

What Can I Do To Prevent Impairment While Driving?

There are a few steps you can take that will reduce your risk of feeling side effects while driving.

  • Adjust the dose of the medicine. If you can get away with taking a lower dose, or breaking up doses in to two parts, try it.
  • Adjust the timing. Take the medication after you’ve arrived at work, or after you’re done driving for the day.
  • Change the medication. Most medications that induce drowsiness can be switched out for a “non-drowsy” formula. Alternatively, you can switch to a brand has a different active ingredient.
  • Monitor yourself. People react to medications differently; what causes drowsiness in one person may cause excitability in another. Notice the way you feel after taking certain OTC medications. If you feel notably impaired, ask your pharmacist to recommend something else.

If you are taking over the counter medications, be sure to read the Drug Facts label thoroughly for any side effects the drug may cause. If you would like to learn more about the medication you are taking, you can visit fda.gov/drugs for a comprehensive list of medications, their side effects, and interactions.

If you’ve been in an auto accident while taking medication, contact a personal injury attorney in Houston. Your attorney will work with medical experts to discern whether your medication was a factor in your accident.

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