Teen Drivers and Prescription Drugs

Usually, when people think about getting arrested for Driving Under the Influence (DUI), they think of alcohol. But in Florida, you can be arrested for driving under the influence of any substance that affects your driving. And it’s not too difficult to find substances that do – even legal ones.

Did you know?

  •  Taking sedating antidepressants even 10 hours before driving is equal to driving impaired.
  •  Ten mg of Valium can cause greater driving impairment than an alcohol concentration of 0.10.
  •  Even in the prescribed dose, the side effects of a prescription drug are beyond your control.
  •  More than 150 medications interact harmfully with alcohol.
  •  Overdosing on a narcotic could cause a person’s breathing to slow down or stop and could cause death.

Narcotics are the most widely used prescription pain relievers. Narcotics are drugs that relieve pain and cause drowsiness or sleep. Side effects of narcotics include:

  • drowsiness
  • dizziness
  •  nausea and vomiting
  •  confusion
  •  decrease in rate and depth of breathing

Some drugs, such as the stimulants used to treat ADHD, may make you feel alert and confident when you’re driving. In reality, the situation may be quite different. Drugs can fool you into believing you’re in control of your driving when you are, in fact, impaired.

Some antihistamines (used to treat allergies) are available over-the-counter, but others are only available with a doctor’s prescription. The effects of antihistamines include:

  • drowsiness – the most common side effect
  •  dizziness
  •  poor coordination
  •  restlessness
  •  nervousness
  •  confusion
  •  blurred vision
  •  slowed respiration

Tranquilizers are prescription drugs that are used to treat medical conditions such as severe anxiety, stress disorders and muscle tension. Tranquilizers are depressants. This means they reduce the amount of activity in the brain and central nervous system. Tranquilizers can relax people to the point where they get clumsy and have trouble thinking straight. Exceeding the prescribed dose of tranquilizers can cause problems with thinking, memory and judgment.

Driving skills can also be impaired by other medications, such as codeine, which is found in prescription cough medication. When combined with alcohol, the adverse effects of these medications on driving skills get worse. The same is true of some antidepressants, most antihistamines, certain cardiovascular medications, narcotics, tranquilizers, and some anti-psychotic medications.

Never drink alcohol while you are taking other drugs. Mixing alcohol with certain medications can cause:

  • nausea and vomiting
  •  headaches
  •  drowsiness
  •  fainting
  •  internal bleeding
  •  loss of coordination
  •  heart problems
  •  breathing difficulties
  •  death

Combining any two drugs, or a drug with alcohol, may result in the synergistic effect. This means that the combination of drugs produces effects that are greater than the sum of the effects of the two drugs. This is called an additive effect; instead of a 1 + 1 = 2 result, the synergistic effect may cause a 1 + 1 = 3 result. Even small doses might cause problems. These drug interactions may result in unconsciousness and death.

Always follow label instructions and the advice of your pharmacist or doctor. But err on the side of caution – if you don’t think the drug should affect your driving but you just don’t feel well, don’t drive.

Read more about how to avoid getting a DUI from over-the-counter or prescription drugs.