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I can drive after taking over-the-counter medications. Right?

Many people take over-the-counter medications for their aches, pains and illnesses. You might not think twice about taking an OTC med and then getting behind the wheel of your car. After all, you would need a prescription if taking it would impair your ability to function and drive. Unfortunately, the reality presents a different story.

What does the Food and Drug Administration say about OTC medications?

An FDA medical officer warns users of OTC medications to be sure the one chosen does not cause drowsiness. Being tired or fatigued makes driving a challenge in its own right, and when an OTC medication adds to it by causing drowsiness, the situation could turn lethal if you drive. Before you take any medication, especially OTC medications, you should read the drug facts section, including any warnings or sections that tell you what you might feel when you take the medication.

The "active ingredients" also provide a clue regarding how the medication might affect you. Depending on why you decide to take a certain drug, you might consider taking more than one OTC medication or take it with a prescription medication, which could amplify the effects due to doubling up on an ingredient or causing a potentially dangerous interaction. Either of these scenarios could lead to a serious or fatal crash if taken while driving.

Some of the most common OTC medications that cause drowsiness are as follows:

  • Anti-emetics: These motion sickness medications treat dizziness, nausea and vomiting. They also could cause you to become drowsy.
  • Antihistamines: Allergy, cold and flu medications treat itchy eyes, noses and throats, runny noses, and a host of other symptoms associated with these common ailments. If you need one of these medications, try to choose one that does not specifically declare drowsiness as a side effect. Even if the medication claims to be non-drowsy, take it first when you do not need to drive to ensure that it does not cause sleepiness in you since everyone reacts to medications differently.
  • Antidiarrheals: You might not realize that one of the most popular of these medications - Imodium - contains an active ingredient known to cause drowsiness.

Of course, other OTC medications cause sleepiness when you take them. These just represent the most common ones that do.

Did an OTC medication contribute to my accident?

The only way to be sure whether one of these medications contributed to your accident and the injuries you suffered is through a thorough investigation. Often, the events leading up to an accident provide the most information regarding its cause. Police might assign responsibility to the other driver, but finding the root cause of the crash might not affect whether officials file any criminal charges in connection with the accident, since OTC medications often do not present a criminal issue.

Therefore, doing so could fall upon you if you plan to file a claim in a California civil court. Providing the court with as much evidence as possible to establish that the other driver caused the injuries you suffered, or the death of your loved one, could result in an award of damages to help you with the financial and other losses you sustained after the accident. One way to increase the possibility of a successful claim would be enlisting the advice and assistance of an attorney. He or she likely possesses the knowledge and resources you need.

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