Medications and driving

Many of us take prescription and over the counter medications and continue to drive safely. However, some medications can impair our driving.

In fact, around 1 in 4 prescription medications are known to have impairing impacts. It’s important to talk to your doctor or pharmacist about all the medications or drugs you are taking.

Types of impairing medications

Medicines most likely to impair our driving are those that:

  • Help us sleep
  • Relieve pain (with codeine or other opiates, like Nurofen Plus, vicodin, oxycodone, or morphine)
  • Reduce high blood pressure
  • Alleviate allergies, colds or motion sickness (including over-the-counter medicine containing antihistamines)
  • Reduce depression or anxiety
  • Act as stimulants
  • Reduce muscle spasms
  • Prevent seizures
  • Alter our vision.

Symptoms to look out for

There are several symptoms that may be caused by your medication(s).  You should watch out for any of the following impairing effects that your medication may be having, such as:

  • Sleepiness
  • Blurred vision
  • Headache
  • Feeling weak
  • Slowed reactions
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea, feeling sick
  • Unable to focus or pay attention
  • Being easily confused
  • Slurred speech
  • Feeling manic and overconfident (although you may not notice this yourself)

These effects can be more severe or unpredictable when starting a new medicine or changing the way you take a familiar one. For example, a higher dose of blood pressure medicine can cause dizziness or fainting, so you may need to take extra care in the first few weeks. Also be extra wary if you took medicine at the wrong time, forgot to take it or took it more often than prescribed.

Having an open conversation with your doctor

It’s important to talk honestly with your doctor about your medication so they can help you stay safe on the road. Your doctor should be able to provide you with detailed and confidential advice on whether your current medications are likely to be impairing your ability to drive safely. 

Medication & Driving checklist to complete with doctor

Tips to stay safe

Don’t suddenly stop or change the way you take your medications without seeking professional advice. Your doctor has prescribed this medicine and dosage to manage your medical condition and changes may create serious health problems.

If you are feeling impaired it’s best to temporarily stop driving until you can get advice from a doctor or pharmacist. Your doctor or pharmacist may be able to change your medication or dose so you are able to drive again.

  1. Always take your medication according to the instructions
  2. Don’t stop taking the medication because you want to be okay to drive
  3. Keep a close eye on how you’re feeling after you first start taking a new medication and talk to your doctor or pharmacist if you are concerned
  4. Check whether you can drink any alcohol when taking your medication
  5. Don’t keep driving if you feel impaired. Stop the car and call someone to pick you up – or take a bus or taxi.

 driving and medication