What drugs among the most used affect driving?


Drinking alcohol or using drugs before getting behind the wheel is completely prohibited and, therefore, roadside checks are usually carried out that try to reduce the chances of a drunk person ending up causing a traffic accident. Nevertheless, little is said about drugs that "can significantly alter the ability to drive", according to the General Directorate of Traffic (DGT).

Although they are authorized drugs, many can be purchased without a prescription and this is why it is convenient to know what effects they can cause while driving. Therefore, it is essential to read the prospectus carefully and pay attention to a pictogram that appears on medications whose consumption can cause unsafe driving. This "does not prohibit driving", but does warn of its effects, as the DGT states.

Pictogram that warns of possible adverse effects of the medication on driving.
Pictogram that warns of possible adverse effects of the medication on driving.

As indicated by the DGT, since 2007, thanks to Royal Decree 1345/2007, of October 11, "it is required that all medications that affect the ability to drive (…), must include in their carton a pictogram ". In this way, people are alerted to the dangers of drugs so they can read the leaflet and know how to proceed after consuming them.

What are the most used drugs?

Both the DGT and the Spanish Agency for Medicines and Health Products (AEMPS) have managed to collect which are the drugs that are most used and that they have an important effect at the moment we get behind the wheel.

  • Opioid analgesics: are intended to treat pain, for example, antimigrañosos. They can cause drowsiness, decreased ability to concentrate and react, weakness or dizziness.
  • Antiepileptic: are essential to treat epilepsy, a neurological disorder, but cause drowsiness, dizziness, blurred vision, fatigue and a feeling of weakness.
  • Anxiolytics: allow to treat anxiety and, therefore, usually cause great sleepiness, which decreases the ability to concentrate and react.
  • Sedative hypnotics: serve to treat sleep disorders, such as insomnia problems. However, they usually cause severe drowsiness that prevents attention from being maintained on the road.
  • Antidepressants: The increase in depression has caused antidepressant prescriptions to have skyrocketed, a drug that causes nervousness, anxiety, drowsiness, impaired coordination and blurred vision.
  • First generation antihistamines: intended to combat and treat seasonal or different allergies, they usually cause drowsiness, reduced reaction capacity and blurred vision if supplied by eye drops.
  • Anti-flu and anti-catarrhal: Medications that can be purchased at over-the-counter pharmacies to be able to fight the symptoms of flu or cold can cause drowsiness that affects driving.

Due to all the side effects present in these medications, AEMPS recommends that whenever start taking a new drug, whether you have this prescription or not, you should ask your GP if there are risks associated with driving.

When should you pay special attention?

Addressing the adverse effects of medications that have the corresponding pictogram is especially important in cases where you work as a carrier, commercial or parcel, for example. The need to have to be driving on the road most of the time should be a reason to take precautions or modify the time of consumption of any of the drugs already exposed.

In addition, in the event that a new dose is started or the taking of several medications is being combined at the same time, it should be borne in mind that the effects can be much more noticeable. However, we cannot forget that the consumption of alcohol, in these cases, will only increase the effects of drowsiness, nausea or a lower reaction capacity that can endanger one's own life and that of others at the time of driving.

How should health professionals proceed?

The DGT is very clear and is that health professionals, whether these doctors or pharmacists, should always inform patients of the risks associated with driving of drugs that are dispensed with or without a prescription.

In fact, it indicates that "It is the responsibility of the healthcare professional, fundamentally of the one who prescribes the medication, but also of the dispenser, to inform the user of the effects that said medication may have." He also insists that these professionals must "give the appropriate recommendations" so that the drugs are taken properly.

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