If you have been taking strong painkillers, we hope that you have been reading the instructions on your medication label. Chances are, you will find a phrase that reads something like this: “This product may cause drowsiness. Avoid using alcoholic beverages, and refrain from driving or operating machinery.”
This is simply because painkillers can affect people in a number of different ways. To be completely honest, some people may take a painkiller, even a very strong one, and say, “I don’t know what the big deal is about. I’m fine.” And maybe they are. There are people who have an incredible resistance to the side effects of medication. Most people, though, will experience at the very least mild side effects from heavy-duty pain medication. This is because many strong pain relievers are based on narcotics, and the term comes from the Greek word “narco,” meaning “stupor.”
If you are taking strong pain killers and planning to drive, do the following:
Do not drive for at least five days after starting a course of narcotic pain relievers. If your dose needs to be changed, wait another five days so you can be sure of knowing how the medication will affect you.
Do not drive if you feel sleepy.
Never mix your pain relief medication with alcohol.
Never exceed the recommended dosage.
Always consult your doctor if you are adding another medication to your painkillers.
After five days, if you feel fine and your doctor agrees, you can begin to drive while taking your painkillers. That is, of course, assuming that you are not experiencing any side effects.
Even so, you should begin by driving only on roads that are familiar to you, and ideally, you will begin driving at a time when traffic is not all that heavy. We also recommend that you have someone with you, just in case you have overestimated your ability to drive.
We understand that it is important to you to be mobile, but we cannot overstate the importance of being very sure that you and your doctor are both absolutely certain that your painkillers will not impair your ability to drive safely.
This article originally appeared on YourMechanic.com as Is It Safe to Drive While Taking Pain Killers? and was authored by Valerie Johnston.