Driving and medication: a potentially dangerous duo!

By helping to remedy all kinds of illnesses, medication can help us lead active lives. But while their benefits largely outweigh any adverse effects, caution is required when you’re in the driver’s seat. Here are some suggestions to help you stay safe on the road! Of course, when it’s a question of mixing drugs and driving, there’s no substitute for the advice of a health care professional.


Prescription drugs

As experts have cautioned, taking medications that produce drowsiness, dizziness or reduced concentration can cause significant driving impairment.

We usually think of opioids, sleeping pills and anti-depressants as posing the greatest risk behind the wheel, but according to the SAAQ, “Almost all types of medications can cause side effects that affect your ability to drive.” In some cases, it’s actually not taking enough of a medication that can reduce your capacity to stay alert. Talk to your doctor and pharmacist, and follow dosing instructions carefully.


Over-the-counter drugs and natural health products

Taking cough syrup, an antihistamine or a muscle relaxant can make you drowsy or slow down your reaction time when you’re on the road. And you need to be as careful with natural health products as with over-the-counter drugs since, as Health Canada points out, they can have unpleasant side effects and they can also interfere with driving – sometimes by interacting with other medications we’re taking.


Basic guidelines for driving safely

-If you don’t feel up to driving, don’t get behind the wheel.

-Avoid distractions while driving and be especially careful when you’re tired.

-Drive when visibility is good; avoid driving at night or in harsh weather conditions.

-Stay within speed limits, maintain a safe distance from other drivers, and stay alert.

-Review the rules of the road from time to time to make sure you’re up-to-date.

-Wear your seat belt.


Websites and apps to help you stay healthy

The Heart and Stroke Foundation’s Health eTools

Visit the Foundation’s Health eTools site

For several free blood pressure management tools, including a tool to help manage blood pressure medications (web-based tool available with a free account), a tool that lets you assess your cardiovascular risk (free web-based tool), and the <30 Days app (iPhone, Android) – a heart disease prevention tool.


Pharmacy apps

Most major pharmacies now offer apps that let you renew medications online and track your daily intake, including issuing refill reminders and monitoring your health status. To search for these apps, simply type in the keyword “app” along with the name of your pharmacy.


Always drive carefully, and when in doubt talk to a health care professional.

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