Some Medicines and Driving Don't Mix

If you’re taking a medication, is it safe to drive?

Most likely, yes. Still, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) advises you to make sure before operating any type of vehicle, whether a car, bus, train, plane, or boat.

Although most medications won’t affect your ability to drive, some prescription and nonprescription medicines can have side effects and cause reactions that may make it unsafe to drive, including:


blurred vision


slowed movement


inability to focus or pay attention



Some medicines can affect your driving for a short time after you take them. For others, the effects can last for several hours, and even the next day. And some medicines have a warning to not operate heavy machinery — this includes driving a car.

Medicines That Might Affect Driving

Knowing how your medications — or any combination of them — affect your ability to drive is a safety measure. Some drugs that could make it dangerous to drive include:

opioid pain relievers

prescription drugs for anxiety (for example, benzodiazepines)

anti-seizure drugs (antiepileptic drugs)

antipsychotic drugs

some antidepressants

products containing codeine

some cold remedies and allergy products, such as antihistamines (both prescription and OTC)

sleeping pills

muscle relaxants

medicines that treat or control symptoms of diarrhea

medicines that treat or prevent symptoms of motion sickness

diet pills, “stay awake” drugs, and other medications with stimulants (e.g., caffeine, ephedrine, pseudoephedrine)

Taking Cannabidiol (CBD) Products and Driving Can Be Dangerous

Last year the agency approved a prescription CBD drug, Epidiolex, for the treatment of two rare and life-threatening seizure disorders in children. The FDA has not approved any other CBD products. Unlike drug products approved by the FDA, unapproved CBD drug products have not been subject to any FDA review.

Moreover, there has been no FDA evaluation regarding whether unapproved CBD drug products are safe and effective to treat a particular disease or condition, what the proper dosage is, how they could interact with other drugs, foods or cosmetics, or whether they have dangerous side effects or other safety concerns.

But we do know that CBD can cause sleepiness, sedation and lethargy, based on data from the approved prescription drug. Because of these side effects, consumers should use caution if planning on operating a motor vehicle after consuming any CBD products.

Learn more about CBD by visiting: What You Need to Know About Products Containing Cannabis or Cannabis-derived Compounds, Including CBD.

Know How Long Your Medicine Will Affect You

People with insomnia have trouble falling or staying asleep. Many take medicines to help sleep. Come morning, though, some sleep medicines could make you less able to perform activities for which you must be fully alert, including driving.

Some medicine can impair you, even the day after you take it.

A common ingredient in a widely prescribed sleep medication is zolpidem, which belongs to a class of medications called sedative-hypnotics. The FDA has found that medicines containing zolpidem, especially extended release forms, can impair driving ability and other activities the next morning.

Zolpidem immediate and extended-release forms are marketed as generic drugs and under these brand names:

Ambien and Ambien CR (oral tablet)

Edluar (tablet placed under the tongue)

Intermezzo (tablet placed under the tongue)

Zolpimist (oral spray)


People who take sleep medicines should talk to their health care professional about ways to take the lowest effective dose. Don’t assume that non-prescription sleep medicines are necessarily safer alternatives. The FDA is also evaluating the risk of next-day impairment with other insomnia drugs, both prescription and OTC versions.

Allergy Medicines Can Affect Your Ability to Drive

For allergy sufferers, medications containing antihistamines can help relieve many different types of allergies, including hay fever. But these medicines may interfere with driving and operating heavy machinery (including driving a car).

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.

Read the OTC Drug Facts label of your medicine and understand the warnings before using it. Also, avoid drinking alcohol or taking sleep medications while using some antihistamines. Those combinations can increase the sedative effects of antihistamines.

How to Avoid Driving Impaired

You can still drive safely while taking most medications. Talk to your health care provider about possible side effects. For example, some antihistamines and sleep medications work for longer periods than others. You might feel the sedating effects of these medications for some time after you’ve taken them, and maybe even into the next day.

Doctors and pharmacists can tell you about known side effects of medications, including those that interfere with driving. You can also request printed information about the side effects of any new medicine.

To manage or minimize side effects while driving, your health care provider may be able to adjust your dose, adjust the timing of when you take the medicine, or change the medicine to one that causes fewer side effects for you.

Here are some more tips:

Always follow directions for use and read warnings on medication packaging, or handouts provided by the pharmacy.

Don’t stop using your medicine unless your prescriber tells you to.

Tell your health care provider about all the products you are taking, including prescription, OTC, and herbal products. Also, let them know about any reactions you experience.

Courtesy FDA Consumer Health Information. For more about consumer health issues, visit the FDA’s website.

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