This article originally appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle on July 9, 2014.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration wants you to know this: Motor vehicles and certain medications don’t mix. And some of those medications are over-the-counter drugs that are probably in your medicine cabinet.
Antidiarrheals, motion sickness medications and, not surprisingly, antihistamines are non-prescription meds the FDA called out last week in an online briefing about the dangers of driving while using common drugs. Dr. Ali Mohamadi, a medical officer at the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, explained that because these medications are available over the counter, many people discount their risks.
The drugs’ side effects include drowsiness, slow reflexes and faulty perception of time and distance. Mohamadi recommends patients pay extra attention to instructions and warnings on these products’ Drug Facts labels.
Earlier this year the FDA took other steps to decrease medication-related drowsy driving. The agency required makers of two popular prescription sleep aids, Lunesta and Ambien, to cut their starting doses in half, decreasing the amount of drug still in patients’ blood during the next morning’s commute.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates about 2.5 percent of fatal car accidents and 2 percent of injury crashes involved drowsy drivers. That’s up to 6,000 fatal collisions each year.