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There’s More Than One Way to Be Under the Influence

Beware of the effects that prescription and over-the-counter drugs may have on your driving ability.

There’s more than one way to be under the influence. Impaired driving is generally associated with alcohol, prescription drug abuse, or illegal drug use. However, many legally obtained and commonly used over-the-counter and prescription drugs can affect a user’s ability to drive safely. Cold and allergy medicines, antidepressants, opioids, and sleep aids can cause side effects, including drowsiness, nausea, and blurred vision, all of which can put motorists at risk. Despite being illegal in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, impaired driving is still one of the most significant dangers on our roadways. Read and follow all warning labels before driving, and note that warnings against "operating heavy machinery" include driving a vehicle. Update your knowledge of drug-impaired driving, and review our resources to learn more about this dangerous driving behavior.

Based on results of the 2013–2014 National Roadside Survey:

10% of weekday, daytime drivers surveyed tested positive for prescription and/or over-the-counter drugs.

The survey tested for the presence of prescription or over-the-counter drugs, not driver impairment. The number does not include drivers who tested positive for prescription or over-the-counter and illegal drugs.  


  1. Some prescription drugs can induce drowsiness, cause nausea, affect judgment, and lessen coordination, all of which can prove fatal when driving.
  2. Over-the-counter drugs may cause drowsiness, dizziness, nausea, irregular heartbeat, or shakiness. Users should avoid operating motor vehicles if they are experiencing any side effects from the medication.
  3. Prescription drugs such as opioids, sedatives, muscle relaxants, and some antidepressants have been associated with increased crash risk.
  4. Some medications may not impair you on their own, but if taken with a second medication or with alcohol, may cause impairment.
  5. Violating state DUI laws that make it illegal to drive impaired by any substance can result in arrest. This includes prescription drugs and over-the-counter medications.

DUI Is More Than Alcohol and Illegal Drugs

In a 2014 survey, 22.5%, nearly 1 in 4, of drivers tested positive for a drug that could impair their driving ability. Remember that just like driving after drinking, driving while under the influence of drugs can get you arrested.


  1. If you have ingested an impairing substance, such as prescription drugs, sleep medication, marijuana, or any illegal drug, do not drive.
  2. Know someone who has ingested an impairing substance? Do not let them get behind the wheel.
  3. Passengers should never ride with an impaired driver. If you think a driver may be impaired, do not get in the car.
  4. If you’re hosting a party, make sure everyone has a sober ride home.
  5. Always wear your seat belt. It’s your best defense against impaired drivers.
  6. Use your community’s sober ride program.
  7. If you see an impaired driver, call law enforcement.

There's More Than One Way to Be Under the Influence.

Driving under the influence of over-the-counter and prescription drug medications can affect your decision-making skills as well. There's more than one way to be under the influence. Learn more about the importance of sober driving.