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How Do Different Drug Classes Affect Driving?


Many people think of DUI exclusively in terms of drunk driving, so it might surprise you to know that any intoxicating substance can impair your ability to operate a motor vehicle. This includes prescription medications as well as illicit drugs.

Drug classes are a way of organizing substances that have similar effects on the body. They typically include both prescription medications and illicit drugs. According to AAA, while different classes of drugs can affect your body in different ways, each may have the potential to impair your driving ability.


Depressants include anti-anxiety medications, barbiturates, club drugs, as well as alcohol. They make you feel relaxed and drowsy. They can impair your driving ability by causing you to lose your coordination. Depending on the substance, the effects can last at least one hour and sometimes more than half a day.


Hallucinogens include ecstasy, LSD, and other substances that affect your perception of reality. A “trip” is the time that a hallucinogen remains effective, which may be long or short. A short trip may be only five minutes, while a long trip can last up to 12 hours. Hallucinogens affect your perception of distance and can cause you to become disoriented.


Though there are illicit narcotics, there are also many different kinds of narcotic analgesics frequently prescribed for relief of severe, often chronic, pain. Because they are highly addictive, their misuse has become a real problem throughout the country. Narcotics make you sleepy and dull your senses, which can affect your reflexive responses to a hazard on the road.


Stimulants work on your central nervous system to speed up operations of the body and the brain. They can affect judgment while increasing aggression, which may cause you to drive recklessly.

You may face DUI charges even when taking a medication that a doctor prescribed to you. Medications that can impair your ability have an advisory on the label telling you not to drive while taking them. Both prescription and over-the-counter medications may have this warning, so pay close attention to any medicines you take.