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What medications you should avoid if you are going to drive

Have you ever wondered if your medications can cause any danger when you are behind the wheel?

While most are safe, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommended avoiding any type of risk before operating vehicles, such as cars, buses, trains, planes, or boats.

Here we tell you what drugs you should take into account for this.

Although drugs do not normally affect the ability to drive, the FDA warns that their side effects could pose a risk to road safety. These are:

  • Fainting.
  • Excitability.
  • Inability to focus or pay attention.
  • Dizziness
  • Slow movements
  • Sickness.
  • Drowsiness.
  • Blurry vision.

These effects can last a few minutes, although there are situations in which it lasts for hours and even until the next day.

  • Expired medications are they still effective?

For this reason, some medications have recommendations not to be consumed when operating heavy machinery, which includes driving vehicles. These are some examples:

  • Opioid pain relievers, such as Codeine, Fentanyl, Hydrocodone, Hydromorphone, Meperidine, Morphine, Oxycodone, or Tramadol.
  • Anticonvulsants, como carbamazepina (Carbatrol o Tegretol), Fenitoína (Dilantin) u oxcarbazepina (Trileptal).
  • Antidepressants, such as citalopram (Celexa), escitalopram (Lexapro), fluoxetine (Prozac), paroxetine (Paxil or Pexeva) or sertraline (Zoloft).
  • Antihistamines (con o sin receta), como brompheniramine (Dimetapp), clemastine (Tavist), chlorpheniramine (Chlor-Trimeton), diphenhydramine (Benadryl), fexofenadina (Allegra) o loratadina (Alavert, Claritin o Dimetapp ND).
  • Antipsychotics, como aripiprazol (Agility), clozapina (Clozaril o FazaClo), quetiapina (Seroquel), risperidona (Risperdal) o ziprasidona (Geodon).
  • Medications for anxiety, such as benzodiazepines Alprazolam, Chlorazepam, Diazepam, Lorazepam).
  • Medicines for diarrhea, such as bismuth (Kaopectate, Pepto-Bismol), loperamide (Imodium), or rehydrators (Enfalyte or Pedialyte).
  • Medications for dizziness, como dimenhidrinato (Dramamine) o meclizina (Antivert, Bonine, Postafen o Sea Legs).
  • Muscle relaxants, such as carisoprodol (Sum Vanadom), cyclobenzaprine (Amrix o Flexeril), Diazepam (Valium o Valrelease) o Metocarbamol (Robaxin o Robxisal).
  • Diet pills and other medications with stimulants, such as caffeine, ephedrine, or pseudoephedrine.

You also shouldn’t mix these medications with alcohol.

Trouble sleeping

Other medications that can be harmful are those used to sleep, such as:

  • Doxepina (Silenor).
  • Eszopiclona (Lunesta).
  • Ramelteon (Rozerem).
  • Suvorexant (Belsomra).
  • Temazepam (Restoril).

Although these are usually taken at night, they can have sequelae the next morning, making people less capable of activities for which they must be fully alert.

  • Drinks to combat sleep problems

A common ingredient in these types of prescription drugs is Zolpidem, which belongs to a class of medications called sedative-hypnotics.

The FDA found that drugs containing Zolpidem can affect driving ability and other activities even the morning after they are consumed.

Zolpidem immediate and extended release forms are marketed as generic drugs 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).

If you use medication to sleep you should speak with a health professional to find out how to take the lowest effective dose.

You also shouldn’t consider over-the-counter drugs as safe alternatives.

Currently, the FDA assesses the risk of overnight deterioration with other insomnia medications, both prescription and over-the-counter versions.

Another case in the spotlight is that of antihistamines, which can slow reaction time, make focusing difficult, and cause mild confusion.

Other tips

You can adopt the following measures to reduce the risk of accidents:

  • Consult your doctors or pharmacists about known side effects of medications.
  • Ask for printed information about the side effects of any new medicine.
  • Follow the directions for use and read the warnings on the medicine packaging or the brochures provided by the pharmacy.
  • Don’t stop taking your medication unless your doctor tells you to.
  • Inform your doctor of all the products you are taking, including prescription, over-the-counter, and herbal. Also, let him know about any reactions you experience.

Sources consulted: US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), US National Library of Medicine, Mayo Clinic.

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