* Weekly Topic: Driving Under the Influence of Prescription Medications

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Mrs. Dani
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Date Joined Jun 2009
Total Posts : 2787
   Posted 2/25/2011 10:36 AM (GMT -6)   
How do you feel about driving while under the influence of prescription medications?
On one hand you have patients who are "tolerant" to their pain medications and drive regularly.
On the other hand you have patients who do not "tolerate" their medications and drive regularly.
Does one or the other make it more or less illegal drive?
These are very real dilemmas chronic pain patients face on a daily basis.
Here is general law regarding DUI / DWI
In every state, it is a crime for a driver to operate a vehicle while impaired by the effects of alcohol or drugs. The specific offense may be called driving under the influence (DUI), driving while intoxicated (DWI), operating under the influence (OUI), and even operating a motor vehicle intoxicated (OMVI). Whatever the specific title, DUI laws make it unlawful for a person to operate a car, truck, motorcycle, or commercial vehicle if
  • The driver's ability to safely operate the vehicle is impaired by the effects of alcohol, illegal drugs, prescribed medications such as painkillers, or even over-the-counter medications such as antihistamines;


  • The driver is intoxicated at a level above established DUI standards, such as blood-alcohol concentration (BAC).
See what the penalties for DUI are in your state...
Learn the Laws regarding DUI in your state.....
~~~>   State Laws
Here's the actual facts and some basic tips to consider:

1. Fact: You may be able to be arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, even normal prescription drugs.
You may totally pass a Breathalyzer or breath test but failing a field sobriety test is still enough for conviction. Any signs of impairment that could affect your driving can be cause for arrest. Even if you don't show signs of impairment, some drugs can cause you to fail a Breath test (also known as a Breathalyzer test). It depends on which type of Breathalyzer is used.
~~~>   Facts DUI
Governments Stance on "drugged driving"....
~~>   NIH GOV
"......Prescription drugs: Many medications (e.g., benzodiazepines and opiate analgesics) act on systems in the brain that could impair driving ability. In fact, many prescription drugs come with warnings against the operation of machinery—including motor vehicles—for a specified period of time after use. When prescription drugs are taken without medical supervision (i.e., when abused), impaired driving and other harmful reactions can also result. In short, drugged driving is a dangerous activity that puts us all at risk....."
(A note to all: This is not a discussion for attacking other members. Each person will feel differently about this topic. Remember to respect each others difference of opinion.)

TWO roads diverged in a yellow wood
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood

Chronic Pain Moderator

Post Edited (Mrs. Dani) : 2/25/2011 7:37:39 PM (GMT-7)

Veteran Member

Date Joined Aug 2006
Total Posts : 9664
   Posted 2/25/2011 11:16 AM (GMT -6)   
Dani, you brought up a very real and hard topic to talk about, so for me and
it's why I'm in pain is because I only take 1/2 of norco in the morning, is so I can drive.
The rest of my meds I take at night and I don't drive while taking them.
If I have to drive at night I take less medications, but I usually just don't drive at night
while on my full doseage of medicines...and I rarely drink alcohol drinks, as I just don't
like the taste of it...just my 2 cents worth and I will not argue about what others choose to do,
Allergy meds get prescribe a lot and they are just as dangerous as pain medicines if not more so.....
* So many dx's I could write a book* "It would be nice if we could use the edit button in real life"...

Monty's Mom
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Date Joined Aug 2010
Total Posts : 664
   Posted 2/25/2011 2:22 PM (GMT -6)   
I feel the same way. I do not tolerate my medications well, and for the times that I must drive, which are rare, I make sure to take little to no meds before I return home. I also have an added issue of fainting from my pain and/or vomiting. The vomiting makes for an unpleasant ride, but the fainting is downright dangerous. So after advice from my doctor and family, I drive only short distances and with short appointments that are not normally pain-inducing. For long trips or strenuous things, I ask for help.
The loss of freedom with giving up driving for medical reasons is crippling, and for me contributes to my sense of isolation and depression. There are days I know I can not drive, simply because normal tasks are too much. Each person tolerates medications differently, and I am eager to hear others' opinions.

Thank you Dani!

Forum Moderator

Date Joined Feb 2003
Total Posts : 16804
   Posted 2/25/2011 2:52 PM (GMT -6)   
I do all of my own driving and always have since being on medication. If at any time I had a medication that made me feel drowsy or loopy then of course I did not get behind the wheel. I do most of my driving during the early part of the day when I am not tired. If I am tired, I do not drive because my reflexes are not that great when tired and I know this. I think good judgment is the best way to handle driving.

Very good topic.
Moderator Chronic Pain Forum

Regular Member

Date Joined Jul 2010
Total Posts : 416
   Posted 2/25/2011 4:40 PM (GMT -6)   
If I don't know how the meds will effect me, I don't drive until I know how it will effect me. My Rhuemy recently upped the strength of my vicodin that my pr dr. gave me. Although i had been taking the other dose and drove fine i waited until the weekend before i took the higher dose. I have never drank and drive but I am gone to work so much and etc. I have to take some sort of pain meds. I think like a lot of people I just choose to take less when I know I have to drive and I don't take the morning ones until I get to work, which sucks but is what I am comfortable with.
Big Hugs, Mama6

DX. with Fibromyalgia, Narcolepsy, Rhuematoid arthritis and Osteoarthritis, Herniated disc 3x in last 7 months

Meds: Nuvigl, Cymbalta, Tramadol, Hydrocodone,Nabumetone-nsaid,methocarbamol-muscle relaxer

Mother to 5 wonderfull kids. Oldest is 18 and just left the nest for animation school. Youngest just started 2nd grade. So I am crazy, and feeling my age plus some.

Veteran Member

Date Joined Oct 2008
Total Posts : 2024
   Posted 2/25/2011 7:11 PM (GMT -6)   
I am not able to drive. Bummer!!

One day at a time!!

Regular Member

Date Joined Jul 2010
Total Posts : 416
   Posted 2/25/2011 8:00 PM (GMT -6)   
Thanks!It's good to be back. It's great to see you still here! Been gone with life and this RA/OA stuff. I think I just had to wrap my head around what is, or might be. I missed you all and all of your help. Hope your doing good! Heather smilewinkgrin
Big Hugs, Mama6

DX. with Fibromyalgia, Narcolepsy, Rhuematoid arthritis and Osteoarthritis, Herniated disc 3x in last 7 months
Meds: , Cymbalta, , Hydrocodone 5/350,Hydrocodone 7.5/Nabumetone,thyroid med, vitamin D, Iron,methocarbamol,muscle relaxer,

Mother to 5 wonderfull kids.
Allow me to be strong just another day.

Regular Member

Date Joined Dec 2009
Total Posts : 23
   Posted 2/25/2011 8:10 PM (GMT -6)   
 I think it depends on the person and how they react to a drug. I can drive on some while other meds make me ditzy and not safe. Now what makes it hard legally is the people who do not recgonize that they are impaired and drive anyway. It is just like everything else out there, some people get it and understand there limits and some do not, or do not care, and do it anyway!!! Just my opinion, hope I did not offend idea

Veteran Member

Date Joined May 2010
Total Posts : 594
   Posted 2/25/2011 9:46 PM (GMT -6)   
I do drive, when necessary, on my pain meds. I live in a very small town....surrounded by farmland for 30 miles in all directions....so I can walk to most places in town! However, I am very tolerant to my pain meds and do not feel impaired at all when taking them....but...the new meds I am on are making me dizzy and spacy....so I will not drive on them! I agree with hopegirl....if all adults were responsible enough to know when they are impaired....whether on alcohol or prescription drugs...there would not be a problem!! However, so many people do not realize they are impaired or do not care that they are impaired and they drive.....many of them injure or kill innocent people! That is the problem....soooo many people just do NOT care! Anyway....I am done rambling!
Rheumatoid Arthritis, Spinal Stenosis L3/L4, L4/L5 & L5/S1 with Nerve Impingement, Fibromyalgia, TMJ, GERD, Severe Depression, VERY Large Cyst Right Ovary causing mild twisting, Small Cysts Left Ovary & 3 Large Cysts Uterus

Medications - MS-Contin, Plaquenil, Cymbalta, Famotidine and currently Prednisone

Mrs. Dani
Veteran Member

Date Joined Jun 2009
Total Posts : 2787
   Posted 2/25/2011 10:15 PM (GMT -6)   
     I must say I am divided about this subject. Here is why...
When a man (Man #1) has had a certain number of drinks he is considered "over the limit" with regards to Blood Alcohol. If the man (Man #1) is able to drive just fine because he is "Tolerant" to alcohol does it make it any less illegal?
Take another man (Man #2), same height, build, body type... He is not accustomed or "tolerant" to alcohol. He drank the exact same amount of alcohol as Man #1. Is it any more illegal for him to be driving with the same blood alcohol as Man #1?
      Currently I am unable to drive. Not because of my medications. Though if that were the only factor I would have to air on the side of caution and get my errands run early (I too vomit and pass out) or have someone drive me. My inability to drive is because of my eyes. I have had many surgeries on my eyes. From lens replacement to laser treatments. In the end... there is little left that they can do. So, needless to say I am unable to drive. Though things would be exciting if I did drive!
    In the end my stance is this.. just don't drive if your medications impair your ability to drive. Get the driving done early in the morning. Car pool. Public transport. Community transport for disabled. Medications impair judgment. Speak with your doctor about what to do. Above all else, be safe! Safe for you and safe for your fellow humans!

TWO roads diverged in a yellow wood
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood

Chronic Pain Moderator

Veteran Member

Date Joined Apr 2010
Total Posts : 2265
   Posted 2/26/2011 12:50 AM (GMT -6)   
I agree with Dani. Be safe for you and your fellow man/woman. I don't drive, but if I did, I wouldn't drive while under my medication if I didn't feel safe. I just couldn't put my life or anyone else's in danger.

love and hugs

Today on the news they were talking about a lady that was driving while intoxicated with her three small children in the car. It happened here close to where I live. I'm thinking how in the world can a mother put her children at risk like that. If I was able to keep our babies and didn't lose them, there's no way I could drive while intoxicated with medication or alcohol while they're in the care with me. I really don't understand this. It's so sad. Several mothers have done this in our area the last week or two. I'm thinking, give them to me and I'll take care of them if you can't. Makes me so angry. Sorry for the rant, but this subject brought this up in my mind. I thought I would tell you all about it.

Regular Member

Date Joined Jan 2011
Total Posts : 230
   Posted 2/26/2011 11:23 AM (GMT -6)   
I'm like StrayDog; I can totally opperate a vehicle while on my meds. My reflexes aren't slowed to my knowledge, as shown when I had to make a split second decision to dodge a tumbleweed as big as a small sports car. Now oddly I know when I take extra strength tylenol I can't drive as I get sleepy; go figure.

Mind you I don't drive far anymore, and I always try to be concious on some level of any signs of sleepiness. I know one day the combination of the windy road, the warm sun through the windshield, and my percoset made me really sleepy. I hastily pulled off at the first stop where they sold beverages and grabbed a red bull, and sent a text message to my boyfriend letting him know I was going to be late because I'd stopped to take a walk and wake up a bit. He was worried about being sleepy while driving to see him (we live an hour apart) but I reminded him I'm always safe, and I always sent him text messages when I get home to let him know I made it alright.

I don't drive like I used to; I used to do cross country drive for 10 hours to go visit friends. But the last time I did that drive it caused so much pain in my arm I knew the next time I went I'd need someone to share the dive with, or take a plane. But even when I was doing that drive my meds were never an issue. Mind you every time they change my perscription I try to give myself a day just to see how I'll react to it before I'll even risk driving my son to school.
Originally injured 10/26/2007 - Initial diagnosis; Tendonitis
Spent next year seeing specialist after specialist; Bone, Muscle, Hand, Chriopractor, Physical Therapist...
Went through a battery of tests, multiple MRI's
11/16/09 I was finally diagnosed CRPS - Stage 2
Permanently disabled and on Percoset for pain.
Hoping 2011 will see my spinal cord stimulator unit finally implanted.

Retired Mom
Veteran Member

Date Joined Feb 2010
Total Posts : 1753
   Posted 2/26/2011 1:26 PM (GMT -6)   
I generally drive every day. I had to take all of this into consideration when I purchased a new vehicle because I had to find one I could see in as well as I need to be safe. I know the question had to do with driving while medicated, but I also feel that many of us may have driving difficulties simply because of our conditions. These probelems are often made worse by the medications we are on.

For the most part, I feel like my reflexes are pretty good and that my ability to drive is better with meds than without.....this is because pain is such a distraction. I do wait until after taking my child to school to take my most potent meds and I don't take the afternoon dose until she is home for the night.

This is a good thinking point!
Failed fusion L5-S1, Pituatary damage, HGH Def, Fibro, Bladder surgery failure, Nissen Failure, GERD, OCPD, GAD, MDD, CTS (Bilateral Surgery completed), CFS, TMJ, Migraines, Vit D, A, Magnesium deficiency, Pre-glaucomic (sp?), HBP, Idiopatic Reactive Hypoglycemia, Edema, too many Drug/Food allergies, sensitivites, and current meds to list.

Veteran Member

Date Joined Jul 2008
Total Posts : 1560
   Posted 2/26/2011 8:51 PM (GMT -6)   
I too still drive. However, only short distances (ie; store, around town for errands). My Pain doc is clear in Wichita, 1 hour and 20 min away. So on these drives hubby always drives me to my appts. I was in a car accident 4 years ago where I got distracted and ran into the back of a car on the hwy. Believe me I would rather not driven that day but my nephew was on his death bed and I was going down to see him and say goodbye.

So, I understand both points. But, I do realize that even though I may be able to handle taking my meds and driving......I am still cupable if I get into an accident or get pulled over. They can still take me to jail for driving under the influence even though I have not shown one sign of problems.
I live to "Tame My Pain!"

Veteran Member

Date Joined Dec 2005
Total Posts : 1768
   Posted 3/1/2011 6:22 PM (GMT -6)   
I usually post on the Crohn's forum, but saw this thread and had to read, as I take pain medicine and other medicine as well.

I have a high tolerance to meds. Usually if I take something for the first time, I get the sleepy, out of it feeling. After the first time, I don't get that feeling anymore.

That being said...I do drive sometimes when medicated. I judge every time I drive on an individual basis. Some things can wait for another day, while some trips are urgent (like going to the ER) and I have to consider whether it's safe for me to drive.

Crohn's since 1997
Surgeries: 2 Bowel resections, appendix & gallbladder removed
Pulmonary Emboli & Pneumonia 2009
Currently on Humira, Omeprazole, Prozac, Seroquel, Calcium, Vit D, Aspirin, B12 shots

Regular Member

Date Joined Jan 2011
Total Posts : 374
   Posted 3/1/2011 9:12 PM (GMT -6)   
I've been so frustrated lately because of my health problems and stuff. I'm not able to drive myself anywhere because it's currently very painful to sit up--especially sitting in the way one has to in order to drive. On the flip side, the medications I'm on make me loopy when I take it, loopy enough that I know absolutely that I can't drive. So I don't even try.

I'd rather feel frustrated than hurt myself, or worse, someone else. It's so strange how all these things can affect people differently, however. I'm sure some people who take the same medication I am on function perfectly normally.

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Date Joined Dec 2007
Total Posts : 1235
   Posted 3/2/2011 11:38 PM (GMT -6)   
I drive. I have to. My husband works three jobs so is home very little. I do not , however drive if I am new to a medication, or if I have my dosages adjusted up or down until my body has had time to acclimate to them.
I also restrict how far I do drive, less than 5 miles from my home. I drive to and from my doctors appointments most of the time, unless my husband happens to be home, then he does the driving. I drive if I must pick up one of our children from school if he is not home.
The good thing is now I have two daughters who are driving, so they can drive on the distances if I need to go, or go and pick up their brothers from school if necessary.......but they just became drivers, so this is a recent, in fact very recent addition.

Regular Member

Date Joined Jul 2009
Total Posts : 163
   Posted 3/3/2011 12:19 AM (GMT -6)   
Lets just say don't even try it. You will lose your license and pay all kinds of fines you never knew existed in the law. nono
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