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FDA Warns Popular Meds Can Cause Drowsy Driving

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently issued a warning that several popular over-the-counter medicines could make you drowsy or otherwise impair your driving. They include drugs used to treat cold symptoms, seasonal allergies, and stomach ailments.

As we have previously discussed on this San Diego Injury Blog, the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration estimates about 2.5 percent of fatal car accidents and 2 percent of injury crashes involved drowsy drivers. While the percentage may seem small, it accounts for 6,000 collisions every year.

Given the risks, the FDA recommends carefully reading the label of any non-prescription drug before taking it. Look for such statements as “you may get drowsy,” “marked drowsiness will occur,” “Be careful when driving a motor vehicle or operating machinery” or “Do not drive a motor vehicle or operate machinery when using this product.”

Below are some of the most common OTC medicines that can cause drowsiness or impaired driving:

  • Antihistamines: These medicines are marketed to treat conditions such as runny nose, sneezing, and itchy eyes, as well as to relieve occasional sleeplessness. Antihistamines can also be added to other active ingredients and used to treat the common cold. Some antihistamines, such as diphenhydramine, the active ingredient in Benadryl, can make you feel drowsy, unfocused, and slow to react.
  • Antidiarrheals: Some medicines that treat or control symptoms of diarrhea can cause drowsiness and affect your driving. One of these is loperamide, the active ingredient in Imodium.
  • Anti-emetics: These medicines, which are used to treat nausea, vomiting and dizziness associated with motion sickness, can cause drowsiness and impair driving as well.

As highlighted by Ali Mohamadi, M.D., a medical officer at FDA, “You can feel the effects some OTC medicines can have on your driving for a short time after you take them, or their effects can last for several hours. In some cases, a medicine can cause significant ‘hangover-like’ effects and affect your driving even the next day.”

As San Diego injury lawyers, we have seen the devastating effects of drowsy driving firsthand. We encourage all drivers to heed the FDA warning and recognize that medicines may affect your ability to drive safely.