Q: My elderly mother has been taking painkillers for back and hip pain. She insists they do not affect her ability to drive, and she continues to get behind the wheel. Do painkillers impair her driving skills?

A: Some individuals can take medication for pain and drive as well as perform many other tedious, precise tasks, but many cannot. Each individual needs to be constantly monitored as to how they respond to their pain management plan. Many other things also impact an individual's response to the pain medication in use. Rest, exercise, diet, and other medications in use as well as the source of the pain may alter a driver's response.

The pain medication can cause a delay in driver response as well as the unrelieved hip pain may also cause a delay in driver response and reaction time. The safety concerned can only be answered by how each individual responds to the medication in use.

Always take note of the warning labels on the prescription bottle. If it has a warning specifically against driving, there is a high probability that your parent's ability to operate a vehicle may be impaired when they are on the medication. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist.

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