Prescription and over-the-counter drug labels warn against using heavy machinery

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New Jersey

Whether you’re enjoying the day at a local park or driving away from home, make sure you don’t drive while impaired.

With the recent legalization of marijuana/cannabis sales in New Jersey, the NJ Poison Control Center reminds drivers that drugs and legal substances can make driving dangerous.

“Many everyday products and substances cause serious side effects, which make drivers feel different when behind the wheel,” said Diane Calello, executive and medical director of the New Jersey Poison Control Center.

“Regardless of whether a product is sold legally or illegally, impaired driving is illegal in New Jersey and nationwide,” Calello said.

“Alcohol consumption is well known to affect a person’s ability to drive, however, alcohol is not the only legal substance known to cause dangerous driving.”

Typically, when people hear the phrase “driving under the influence,” they think of alcohol and drunk driving.

However, many products significantly increase the risk of driving under the influence – prescription drugs, over-the-counter drugs, recreational drugs, illegal/street drugs, and medicinal and recreational THC/marijuana.

“All drugs and substances have health effects that can range from minor to serious,” Calello said.

Some products can cause extreme drowsiness, loss of concentration or attention, decreased coordination, blurred vision, and slow reaction times, making driving dangerous.

Examples of common prescription and over-the-counter medications that can cause impaired driving are anticonvulsants, sleeping pills, muscle relaxants, antidiarrheals, antianxiety medications, antidepressants, painkillers, antiallergics, antipsychotics, cough and cold, diet pills and motion sickness medication.

“Pay attention to the warning label on the products you take. If a product has a side effect that makes driving dangerous, there’s a ‘do not operate heavy machinery’ warning on the product,” Calello said.

To be clear, your personal vehicle is most definitely considered heavy machinery.

If a drug, medication or substance makes you feel different, you can bet it will make you drive differently. Stay off the roads if you feel intoxicated.

Many lives, including yours, depend on it.

Follow these safety tips to reduce your risk of injury when taking prescription and over-the-counter medications, including vitamins and supplements.

  • Select medications that treat ONLY the symptoms you have. For example, if you are congested and have no other symptoms, use only a decongestant. If you are congested and coughing, use a decongestant that also stops the cough.
  • Limit or avoid consuming alcohol while taking medication. Many ingredients used in medicine can interact dangerously with alcohol, causing effects such as nausea, vomiting, drowsiness, fainting and loss of coordination.
  • Be knowledgeable about the active ingredients of medications, possible side effects, and potential interactions. Before use, read the product label for warnings, instructions and ingredient list. Dangerous interactions can still occur even if the products were taken at different times.
  • More doesn’t mean better. Do not take medication longer or in higher doses than recommended in the instructions. If symptoms persist, it’s time to see a doctor.
  • Liquid medications should be measured accurately using a measuring spoon, measuring cup, or oral syringe. When administering medication to young children, the amount of medication given should be based on weight, not age. It is dangerous to use a kitchen spoon to measure medicines.
  • Don’t drive until you know how a prescription or over-the-counter drug affects your driving. Many products warn of the risk of impaired driving.
  • Ask your pharmacist, healthcare professional, or medical staff at the NJ Poison Control Center (1-800-222-1222) for help choosing medications that won’t interact with medications you’re already taking. Drug interactions can be extremely dangerous and even lead to death.

If you think someone has come into contact with something dangerous, contact your local poison control center immediately for medical treatment advice.

Anyone can seek medical help – children, adolescents and adults. Poison centers are a medical resource for the public and health care providers. Get help 24/7.

If the person is awake, call the NJ Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222.

If someone is not breathing, having trouble waking up, or having a seizure, call 9-1-1.


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