How do specific drugs affect a person’s driving ability?

On Behalf of | Sep 8, 2022 | Car Accidents

Alcohol isn’t the only drug that will affect your ability to drive. Over-the-counter, prescription and prohibited drugs are all capable of impacting someone’s driving ability. While the ability to cause impairment is nearly universal, the kind of impairment varies depending on the substance in question.

Learning about the specific driving consequences that different drugs can cause can help keep drivers safe on the road and also identify warning signs of others who are impaired at the wheel.


Alcohol is arguably the most commonly-used depressant that police can detect during a traffic stop. However, there are several other depressants that people frequently abuse and that can lead to impaired driving ability.

Heroin, opioids and opiates all sedate the person taking them. The same is true of barbiturates, a class of drugs which includes sleeping pills and anti-seizure drugs. Finally, benzodiazepines, which are a class of psychiatric drug, will also cause a depressant effect. These drugs can slow someone’s reaction time, affect their hand-eye coordination and impair their judgment.


Taken in moderation, caffeine can help people stay alert and potentially perform better at the wheel. However, when people use caffeine as an alternative to getting proper rest, they may display signs of fatigue-related driving issues at the wheel.

Multiple other drugs have a stimulant effect that can impact someone’s driving ability. Cocaine, medications like Adderall prescribed for ADHD, methamphetamine and MDMA or ecstasy are all stimulant drugs that have similar effects on the brain. They can cause excessive risk-taking, unnecessary speeding and aggressive driving. High doses of stimulants can also affect someone’s coordination.

There is also marijuana or cannabis, which can increase someone’s reaction time and affect their coordination, especially when combined with other substances. Hallucinogens are incredibly dangerous because they can disrupt someone’s ability to process information and may lead to them reacting to perceived obstacles that aren’t even present.

You may be able to recognize the signs of impairment in another driver or realize that you shouldn’t drive after taking prescription medication when you understand the specific consequences that different medications have on your driving skills. Learning more about factors that contribute to motor vehicle collisions will help you better handle the consequences of a car crash that affects your family.

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