Drugs and How They Can Impair Driving

While learning to drive, chances are you were lectured about how driving under the influences of alcohol can be dangerous. You have seen PSA after PSA on television or have been the designated driver among your group.

But did you know that other drugs aside from alcohol can impair your driving ability in similar ways? In fact, they might make it just as dangerous. Many different drugs can have different impairments on your abilities, reaction times, cognitive thinking, and judgment.

Though alcohol is the most common, it is important to be aware of what other drugs can pose potential dangers for drivers. Some may be obvious contenders, others may surprise you.


The potential effects of driving under the influence of cannabis are often undermined by alcohol. While alcohol and its influence have been well-studied over the years, weed has been studied less but has yielded results that can also be worrying. In fact, after alcohol, cannabis is the second-most common drug found in the bloodstream of those involved in car accidents.

People using cannabis may drive extremely carefully, knowing they are high, compared to drunk drivers. However, pot tends to impair eyesight, often making it blurry or giving the impression of tunnel vision.

Cannabis not only affects peripheral vision, but can also impair motor skills and coordination, reaction times, stability on the road, and attention spans. Though ganja may not impair driving as much, abusing pot heavily can make it just as dangerous as drunk driving.

Prescription Medications

When a doctor prescribes a new medication to you, they may give you certain warnings and precautions regarding it. Some drugs contain controlled substances, such as cannabinoids or opioids; others might create certain behaviors and reactions in the user, like drowsiness or alertness.

Stimulants, including Ritalin, Methamphetamine, ecstasy, or crack cocaine, can make a user’s driving more reckless. They may drive faster, take dangerous turns, or be less cautious of other drivers.

On the contrary, medications, such as those which treat anxiety and depression, can slow reactions or make the driver more aloof.

Even worse, some people may not only mix prescriptions, but they even add alcohol to the mix. This combination—regardless of whether the alcohol is below the legal limit—can make driving more dangerous than ever. With extremely impaired driving and cognitive skills, the likelihood of being involved in a crash increases tremendously.

Over-the-Counter Drugs

This may come as a surprise, but over-the-counter drugs—medications that anyone of any age can pick up with little restriction from anywhere—can impair driving.

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This is entirely dependent on the drug itself, but something to keep in mind when taking any new medication. This includes medications for allergies or even minor symptoms like runny nose or cough, such as Benadryl. These drugs tend to cause drowsiness and can make driving much more difficult.

Under the right circumstances, some over-the-counter drugs can even give symptoms similar to hangovers. This includes headaches, dizziness, fatigue, lack of concentration, and sensitivity to light and sounds.

When picking up over-the-counter drugs, especially ones you are not familiar with, be sure to look over directions. These can be specific behavioral precautions or warnings, like not to “drive or operate heavy machinery.” Though over-the-counter drugs usually are not abused the same way as alcohol or cannabis, they can be just as dangerous.

If you or a loved one struggles with managing drugs or potential addiction, contact a local Treatment & Rehab alternative in Tennessee. You might be interested in Discovery Place’s own treatment center alternatives, such as our 30 Day Residential Addiction Recovery Program or our Long Term Recovery Program in Burns, Tennessee. Call us for a free consultation at 1-800-725-0922.

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