Strong painkillers and driving
You may have noticed that the label on your painkiller medicine says: “May cause drowsiness. If affected do not drive or operate machinery. Avoid alcoholic drink.”
Your doctor or nurse may also have discussed side effects of your painkillers with you.
Strong painkillers (or opioids) affect each person in a different way. They can make some people drowsy and reactions can be slower than usual. This may be worse if you take other medicines that cause drowsiness or if you drink alcohol. If you are someone who drives you may be wondering if it is safe for you to drive. The following information will help you to decide.
- You must not drive if you feel sleepy
- You must not drive after drinking alcohol or taking strong drugs which have not been prescribed or recommended by your doctor for example, cannabis.
- You must not drive if you start taking other drugs that cause sleepiness, either prescribed by your doctor or bought from the chemist for example, hay fever medicine.
- You must not drive on days where you have had to take extra (breakthrough or rescue) doses of a strong painkiller.
Drivers Vehicle Licensing Agency
You do not need to inform the DVLA that you are starting a strong painkiller. However there may be other information about your illness that the DVLA needs to know. Your doctors or the DVLA can advise you about this.
You can visit the DVLA website for more information and how to contact them.
You may need to inform your motor insurance company about your current state of health and what medication you are taking. Each insurance company is different, so it is best to discuss your circumstances with yours to be sure that you are covered.
A member of the hospital palliative care team, your community specialist nurse or your GP will be happy to help you decide when it is safe to drive.