Driving and pharmacy medications
Many road users are unaware the pharmacy medication they are taking could be impairing their driving, particularly if mixed with alcohol.
Ageing road users face an increased risk of fatality and serious injury in a crash due to their fragility and other issues associated with ageing. A high proportion of ageing driver fatalities involve multiple vehicle accidents, with many occurring at intersections. Complex traffic situations become more demanding, particularly in combination with deteriorating hearing, vision, reaction time and/or mobility.
Recent research reviewed by the TAC also highlights there is a higher prevalence of medication usage for health purposes as drivers' age, however the use of these medications can often and unknowingly, impair driving ability. These materials have been prepared to help drivers understand that some pharmacy medicines can impair their driving.
Download the brochure here:
What to do
- always ask if it is safe to drive on your medication
- read labels to see if your medication may affect your driving
- talk with your doctor or pharmacists to see how medications may affect your driving
- ask if there is a medicine that may be less impairing
- be aware medicines may affect your driving more when you first start taking them.
- don't stop medication or alter your dose without speaking to your doctor first
- don't drink alcohol if you are planning to drive
- use alternative transport such as public transport or taxi
Medicines that can impair driving
|Commonly used for||Type of medicine||Generic name||Example brand name|
|Anxiety, sleep problems||Benzodiazepines||Alprazolam||Xanax|
|Anxiety, sleep problems, epilepsy||Diazepam||Valium|
|Sleep problems||Other sleep medicines||Nitrazepam||Mogadon|
|Depression, bladder problems, migraine and/or nerve pain||Tricyclic antidepressants||Amitriptyline||Endep|
|Depression, anxiety||Monoamine oxidase (MAO) Inhibitors||Moclobemide||Aurorix|
|Depression, anxiety||Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs)||Escitalopram||Lerxapro|
|Psychotic conditions (eg schizophrenia and/or bipolar disorder)||Antipsychotics||Haloperidol||Serenace|
|Allergies, cough, cold and flu symptoms||Sedating antihistamines||Chlorpheniramine||Codral original Cold and Flu, Cough Day and Night capsules|
|Brompheniramine||Demazine Cough and cold Relief Elixir|
|Allergies, itchiness, motion sickness, sedation||Promethazine||Phenergan|
|Allergies, cough, cold and flu symptoms, sleep problems||Diphenhydramine||Benadryl for the Family original syrup, Snuzaid|
|Hay fever, skin rash||Less sedating antihistamines||Cetirizine||Zyrtec|
|Pain relief||Opioids||Codeine||Nurofen Plus, Panadeine Forte|
Note. The medicines listed above give generic examples and brand names for each type of medicine but does not cover all medicines that can impair your driving. Your doctor or pharmacist can give you more advice.
How Can Medicines Affect Driving
The impairing effect of some medicines can be equivalent to a BAC (Blood Alcohol Content) of 0.05% or more so it is important to understand how your medicines affect your ability to drive.
Common side effects of some medications are:
- drowsiness or tiredness
- dizziness or feeling faint
- blurred vision
- shakiness or unsteadiness
- confusion and poor concentration
- slower reaction time
- mood changes and anxiety