How to Keep Drugged Drivers Off the Road

Drug overdoses now surpass automobile accidents as the leading cause of accidental death in the US. What can be done to keep our roads safer and protect our loved ones from unintentionally misusing their medication, putting them and others in harm’s way? Practical Pain Management spoke with Jeffrey Fudin, PharmD, DAAPM, FCCP, FASHP and Pawan Grover, MD for their insight and tips. 

drugged drivingDrugged driving is now a bigger problem than drunk driving. Many people don't understand drug interactions and that there are serious risks associated with both prescription and over-the-counter medications.

#1. Store medications in an organizer. “If you take medication everyday, it can be remarkably easy to forget if you’ve taken your daily dose, especially when you are on multiple medications,” Dr. Gover says. “Using an organizer is an easy way and inexpensive way to prevent accidentally taking too much.”

#2. Be proactive about your healthcare. “Don’t assume doctors are keeping track of all your medications or are even speaking regularly with each other," Dr. Grover explains. "Keep your own records and be sure your primary care physician [the gate keeper] is up-to-date on all the medications you are currently taking.”

#3. Talk to your pharmacist to learn more about drug interactions. “Pharmacists understand drug interactions better than most doctors. Don’t hesitate to get one on the phone and if you are taking prescribed medication and always consult your pharmacist before adding anything over the counter,” Dr. Grover says.

 #4. Parents: Lock up your medications. “There’s been an alarming increase in children being harmed by prescription medicine. Additionally, never, ever share medication,” Dr. Grover explains pointing to a recent study of heroin addicts indicating that up to 75% of them got their start by first becoming dependent on prescription medication given to them by family or friends.

#5. Never operate a car if you are on an opioid or a sleep aid. “Separately or combined, this is just a very bad idea,” Dr. Grover says.

#6. If taking zolpidem (Ambien), be aware of the risks of sleep driving and store car keys accordingly. “Make sure your car keys are kept in a safe place that will require significant hurdles to locate should you awaken and attempt to find them in the middle of the night when you aren't fully awake,” says the pharmacist.

#7. Learn your state laws regarding drug use and driving and encourage efforts to strengthen and enforce existing legislation. Unlike alcohol’s legal limit of .08, there is no similar threshold for prescription or illegal drugs. Several states have zero tolerance policies prohibiting driving with any amount of specified drugs in the system, but not all states do. Some states set limits on the amount of certain drugs allowed in the system. For more information, visit

#8. Become a safe roads advocate and encourage efforts to increas training for law enforcement to help them identify and drivers impaired by medication. According to the Government Highway Safety Administration report, many officers are not trained to identify the signs of drugged driving. For more information, visit


Updated on: 01/05/21
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