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Hydrocodone: Does It Affect Your Driving? (2024 Guide)

It is not safe to drive after taking hydrocodone, which is a powerful opioid medication often prescribed for pain relief. Side effects of hydrocodone include drowsiness, dizziness, and impaired cognitive function, which can significantly impair your ability to drive safely and increase the risk of accidents.
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Collen Clark Published by Collen Clark

What is Hydrocodone?

According to 2022 study by the National Library of Medicine, Hydrocodone is one of the most common pain medications prescribed by clinicians and one of the most abused by patients. It is a relatively potent drug for moderate-to-severe pain control in postoperative patients, patients with trauma, or patients with cancer [1.].

Typically, hydrocodone is dispensed in combination with other substances, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen, to tackle intense pain requiring opioid intervention. Additionally, it’s often paired with homatropine methylbromide to alleviate cough symptoms. For cases of prolonged and intense pain, hydrocodone may also be administered in its extended-release form, known under various brand names like Zohydro ER.

Despite its therapeutic benefits, it’s crucial to recognize hydrocodone’s status as a controlled substance, classified as Schedule II in the United States. This regulatory designation reflects its potential for misuse and underscores the importance of responsible prescribing and use under medical supervision.

How Does Hydrocodone Affect the Body?

When hydrocodone is ingested orally, it embarks on a journey through your body’s pathways, starting from your mouth and throat. Eventually, it reaches the liver, where it undergoes metabolism, transforming into various chemicals like codeine and morphine. These chemical alterations play a pivotal role in influencing bodily functions.

The impact of hydrocodone extends to the brain, where it exerts effects such as reducing breathing and heart rates while inducing a sense of relaxation. Moreover, it slows down cognitive faculties responsible for judgment and decision-making, potentially endangering safe driving practices.

Can I Legally Drive After Taking Prescription Medications?

According to SCLG, legally operating a vehicle post-prescription medication consumption is permissible if the medication doesn’t compromise driving capabilities [2]. However, legal ramifications arise if certain conditions are met, as stipulated by most state laws regarding Driving Under the Influence of Drugs (DUID) or Driving Under the Influence (DUI) of substances like Vicodin or other painkillers.

These conditions typically include operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of prescription pain medication, possibly exacerbated by concurrent use of controlled substances or alcohol. The crux of the matter lies in whether the painkillers impair the driver’s physical or mental faculties to a degree that deviates from the standard cautious and sober driving behavior.

It’s essential to note that the legality of driving under the influence of hydrocodone or other painkillers isn’t contingent upon recreational use or legitimate medical necessity. Regardless of the context, if an impairment is evident, it constitutes a punishable offense under the law.

Prescription Drugs and DUI

While many associate “DUI” solely with drunk driving, it encompasses drugged driving as well, referring to operating a vehicle under the influence of controlled substances. It’s imperative to understand that law enforcement can apprehend individuals for driving under the influence of prescription medications. In essence, DUI involving drugs extends beyond illegal substances such as marijuana.

Driving under the influence of any controlled substance, including over-the-counter medications, prescription drugs, and substances containing alcohol (like cough syrup or sleep aids), is unlawful.

Also Read: Can I Drive on Adderall?

Drugged Driving Facts

  • Driving while under the influence of illicit drugs or misused prescription medications poses significant risks, akin to driving after consuming alcohol.
  • In 2018, a staggering 20.5 million individuals aged 16 or older admitted to driving under the influence of alcohol within the previous year, while 12.6 million confessed to driving under the influence of illicit drugs.
  • Despite the challenges in quantifying the exact impact of drugged driving on accidents, estimates indicate that nearly 44 percent of drivers involved in fatal car crashes tested positive for drugs.
  • The effects of driving under the influence of substances like marijuana, opioids, and alcohol can be profound and potentially catastrophic.
  • It’s crucial for individuals who use drugs or alcohol to develop proactive social strategies to prevent themselves from operating a vehicle while impaired, thereby safeguarding both themselves and others on the roadways.

Source: National Institute on Drug Abuse [3].

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