Medications & Drug Awareness

For just about every ailment you might have, there most likely exists a medication to tackle the problem. Simply head down to any grocery or drug store and you can find aisles brimming with over-the-counter relief. For more serious infirmities you can hit your doctor up for a prescription and gain access to the more potent fixes doled out by pharmacists.

But new insight is emerging from various studies on just how risky some of these drugs may be when incorporated with driving. Some of the findings have actually shown that many allergy medications we rely on each year to help us manage through a day are worse than alcohol.

At least after a few drinks you will feel the effects. With certain medications you may never even realize you are in any sort of peril or a threat on the road. Yet, motor skills are dulled and reaction times are distorted, even though you still you feel comparatively chipper. The next thing you know the world starts spinning, things get just a bit too blurry, and you wind up in an accident.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is in a lurch because the organization is not quite sure how to respond to the new studies. It already requires certain measures. Just look on the back of any box or bottle of medicine and you will see all sorts of warnings. Usually the information is listed right before the dosage directions. But how arbitrary is the phrase "may cause drowsiness."

However, most companies are getting better at trying to advocate caution without instilling fear in a patient. So maybe the FDA will find the proper balance to make sure consumers are aware of what hazards a drug can possibly pose. After all, at the end of the day these companies still have remedies to peddle. Still, you will see a bit more detail instructing you to avoid alcohol, which will enhance the other side effects, and inform you to at least use extra caution when driving.

What to Watch For

The active ingredients in allergy medication are one of the major causes for concern. As a group they are referred to as antihistamines. There are a variety of types, with some of the most prevalent being:

  • Diphenhydramine
  • Chlorpheniramine
  • Brompheniramine
  • Clemastine
  • Doxylamine

All of the popular brands (Clairton, Benadryl, etc.) use antihistamines. But the ingredient is not limited specifically to allergy medicine. You will find it in cough medicine, cold tablets, flu therapies, or just about any drug that "helps you rest."

The rule of thumb is to simply use extra caution to avoid driving while impaired. If you are sick you hopefully will not be pounding alcohol, unless it is a hot toddy. But you may force yourself into work, which may mean getting behind the wheel. It does not take long to fall asleep, especially while being lulled in a moving vehicle, and trying to keep awake will take a Herculean effort in certain situations.

So if you feel yourself nodding out, pull off somewhere. It could save your life. If you experience any other symptoms that seem out of the ordinary consult a pharmacist or just call in sick and get some rest.

If you are having a prescription filled, make sure to discuss all of the possible side effects and get a "thumbs up" on driving, just to ease your mind. It is better to be safe than end up in a ditch somewhere groggy and disoriented from medication.

Take extra time to go over the fine print if you are taking any type of prescription drug to treat allergies, anxiety, high blood pressure, serious pain, depression, or cholesterol. These tend to pack quite a punch, especially if mixed with alcohol.

The Center for Drug Evaluation and Research (CDER), one of the five Centers of the FDA, is an excellent resource for information about the safety of both over-the-counter and prescription medications in the United States.

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