List of Drugs You Should Not Take While Driving in California

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While you do not want to carry illegal drugs in your car, we often forget about checking the cold and flu medicines we take and whether they may impair driving capabilities while on the road. If you take prescribed medications, make sure you know whether these can make you drowsy if you also drink while out for dinner at a restaurant.

Always carry your prescribed medications in the bottle that they came in, showing your name and doctor’s name on the label. Never carry any medications lose in your purse or pocket without the identifying bottle, including over-the-counter (OTC) medications. A peace officer may suspect you are carrying other types of drugs if the officer finds them laying loose during a search.

Always Check for Alcohol Percentages in OTC Medicines

Some OTC brand medications now have versions of cold and flu medications which can be used for the daytime, meaning they will not make you drowsy. The other version, called nighttime medications, has added properties that can put you to sleep.

Any medication with alcohol included must show that percentage on the label so that you know and will not take them while driving. Be sure you know what medications you have taken before you get behind the steering wheel, as California is very strict about driving under the influence (DUI) of both alcohol and/or drugs.

List of Drugs You Cannot Take While Driving    

  • Any OTC or prescribed medications for colds, flu, allergies, anxiety, or muscle relaxers.

Know the ingredients of these medications and do not take them if they contain alcohol or make you drowsy. Never drive while feeling drowsy as you might fall asleep.

  • Never take medications at the same time as you drink alcohol, and then try to drive.

The combination of both together can make for a lethal outcome. Maybe you did not eat enough that day and the combination of both alcohol and drugs hits you harder than it usually does. Take a cab home instead or get someone to come pick you up.

  • Pep pills, usually called “uppers” and diet pills that speed up your metabolism, can also affect you negatively.

You may feel jittery, nervous, and dizzy, leaving you feeling like you are out of control if you cannot calm down.

  • Never use medical marijuana applications before, or while, driving your vehicle.

While medical marijuana is legal in California, it is strictly regulated as to when and where you can use it. You also cannot use it while riding in a vehicle, so just leave it at home. If you need to use it, you should go home first and use it. The only time you could carry it in the vehicle, preferably in the trunk, is if you just purchased your regular amount from a state-registered distributor and it is still sealed.

Alcohol in the Vehicle

Never carry open alcohol containers in your vehicle. Bottles of wine and hard liquor should remain sealed while being transported. Cans of beer should also remain sealed and all alcohol should be placed in the vehicle’s trunk during transportation. Find out more information at the website for the California Driver Handbook online.

If you have been detained for possible DUI, call us at once for a consultation. 619-234-2300

Author Photo

Kerry L. Armstrong


Attorney Kerry Armstrong opened up his law firm in June 2007. Mr. Armstrong attended Thomas Jefferson School of Law, San Diego, California, and received his B.S. from Middle Tennessee State University. Kerry L. Armstrong became certified by the State Bar of California’s Board of Legal Specialization for criminal law in August 2020, making him one of the few criminal defense attorneys with a criminal law legal specialization certificate in San Diego County.  Between 2014 – 2019, Mr. Armstrong was selected for inclusion in the California Super Lawyers list, an honor only awarded to 5% of the nation’s attorneys.

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