Can I Drive While Taking a Prescription Drug?

California Laws Regarding Driving Under the Influence of a Drug


California Vehicle Code section 23152 (f) states that it is unlawful to drive under the influence of a drug. The drug does not have to be an illegal drug, it can be an over-the-counter or prescription drug. A person is considered under the influence if the drug impairs their ability to drive.

Many people falsely believe that because they have a prescription for the drug, it is not illegal to drive while taking it. Under California law, any drug that can impair your motor skills, reaction time, or cognitive abilities is illegal to take while driving.

Common prescription drugs that should not be taken before driving:

  • Opioids and other pain relievers
  • Anti-seizure medication
  • Medicine to treat insomnia (sleeping pills)
  • Muscle relaxers
  • Stimulants
  • Anti-anxiety medication
  • Antidepressants

It is important to discuss the prescription that you are taking with your doctor. Be sure that you understand potential side effects. Many prescriptions will have a warning indicating that they could make you drowsy or cause blurred vision. If the medication warns you not to operate heavy machinery while taking, adhere to it.

Always follow the directions given to you by your doctor or pharmacist and be sure that you know all of the risks associated with the medication. Never drive while under the influence of a drug and do not mix drugs with alcohol if there is the potential for adverse side effects.

It is important to remember that the effects of certain drugs can last for hours. It may take a significant amount of time before the drug leaves your system making it safe for you to get behind the wheel. Check with your doctor on how long you should wait before you drive if you are taking any prescription medications.