Can You Get a DUI from Prescription Drugs?
Legal Substance Use While Driving Might Be Considered Illegal
Most Americans know they run the risk of a DUI conviction if they operate a vehicle under the influence of illegal drugs or alcohol, but it is actually possible to receive a DUI from prescription drugs as well.
It’s vital for anyone who takes any type of prescription medication to understand the risks, warnings and potential side effects. If you are wondering about how a particular medication could impact your ability to drive, speak with your doctor about your concerns.
Why Are Prescription Drugs a DUI Risk?
Many prescription medications, especially painkillers and depressants, interfere with an individual’s ability to drive. Depth perception, movement tracking, reaction time and judging speed all become more difficult under the influence of some prescription drugs. Additionally, some prescription medications can cause adverse side effects if a person takes them incorrectly, such as after consuming alcohol or on an empty stomach.
Side effects of many prescription drugs include:
- Blurred vision
- Inability to focus
- Reduced reaction times
These are very dangerous factors while on the road. While you may assume that there would be no justification for a DUI charge for prescription drugs because the drugs are legal, the issue is impairment.
If a medication impairs your ability to drive, it does not matter if the drug is legal for you to own and consume and prescribed by a doctor.
Federal Guidance on Driving on Prescription Drugs
The National Safety Commission released a report in 2009 offering guidance to the public about the issue of driving under the influence of certain prescription medications. Police officers aren’t able to carry testing equipment for every type of potentially dangerous drug in their police cars. Therefore, increasing public knowledge about the potential dangers of driving under the influence of prescription drugs is one of the best methods of preventing future prescription drug DUIs.
Ultimately, it is up to the officer on the scene to decide whether a driver is capable of safely managing his or her vehicle. If the officer believes a driver is under the influence of some type of drug, he or she will likely initiate an arrest if the driver is deemed a danger to the public. The officer will arrest suspected DUI drivers and allow the court to sort out the details later.
Are Prescription Drug DUIs Fair?
Many people may assume that a prescription drug DUI would carry a less severe punishment than DUI of alcohol or other illicit drugs, but this is not the case. If an officer arrests a driver for impairment, the substance causing the impairment is not really the issue. The main issue is that the driver is not in full control of his or her faculties and presents a danger to the rest of the public.
DUI laws vary by state, but generally the penalties include:
- Heavy fines
- Jail time
- Community service
- Education course completion
- License suspension (or permanent revocation for repeat offenders)
Penalties typically increase with subsequent charges, so a driver with a record of DUI of alcohol could face very severe penalties if he or she receives another charge later for DUI of prescription drugs. The court does not determine penalties based on the type of drugs involved.
Potential Complications and Unfair Charges
There are a few factors that could lead to an unjustified DUI charge. Most Americans know of actress Lindsay Lohan and her many run-ins with law enforcement for drug crimes. Out of her many DUI convictions, she claims one was because of drinking kombucha tea.
Kombucha tea is a trendy health drink that contains live cultures and trace amounts of alcohol. Consuming kombucha tea could potentially lead to a positive breathalyzer reading due to these trace amounts, which Ms. Lohan claims led to an unjust DUI charge.
Another strange possibility is a medical condition known as “autobrewery syndrome” that causes individuals with this condition to literally brew their own alcohol inside their bodies. The condition entered the public discussion in 2015 when a woman from upstate New York received a breathalyzer test reading 4 times over the legal limit during a traffic stop. Also known as gut-fermentation syndrome, this condition is incredibly rare, and the judge presiding over the woman’s case dropped the charges.
The hospital who admitted the woman after the stop wanted to release her immediately because she showed no symptoms of intoxication. The hospital ran tests overnight, and the woman continued to read well over the legal limit the next morning after consuming no alcohol all night.
Join the Discussion
Fight Addiction Now is a grassroots community of individuals who come together to share advice, encouragement and stories about addiction. Considering the possibility of wrongful DUI convictions, what do you think about the possibility of receiving a DUI charge for prescription drugs?
These drugs can cause impairment and prevent an individual from safely driving a vehicle, but should they fall into the same category as drunk driving?
Join the Fight Addiction Now community on Facebook and let us know what you think, or start the discussion in our popular online forum.