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What Drivers Need to Know About DUIs and Prescription Medication

When you think about the crime of driving under the influence (DUI), you may picture someone insisting on driving home after consuming large amounts of alcohol. Although alcohol is the most common cause of DUI convictions, alcohol is not the only substance that can impair driving.

Many types of drugs can impair a person’s ability to operate a motor vehicle, including medications prescribed to that individual by a licensed physician.

Any Medication That Affects Cognition or Motor Skills Could Impair Driving

When you start a new medication, you may not think twice about how it could affect your driving, especially if the medication isn’t considered major. However, any medication that causes dizziness, changes in motor skills, or changes in vision could affect your ability to drive safely.

Common medications with these side effects include:

  • Anti-anxiety medications
  • Antidepressants
  • Antihistamines
  • Blood pressure medications
  • Certain diabetes medications
  • Muscle relaxers
  • Painkillers
  • Sedatives
  • Weight-loss supplements

Whether the medication was prescribed by a medical professional does not necessarily dictate whether the substance will cause impairment. For example, certain individuals have similar symptoms with ibuprofen as with narcotic painkillers.

Most DUIs Involving Legal Drugs Result From Mixing Medications

Although many strong medications can cause impairment on their own, many DUIs result from drivers mixing multiple drugs with adverse effects. For example, using medical marijuana with any prescription medication may result in slower response times while on the road.

Before using two drugs simultaneously, check with your doctor. Additionally, you should wait to find out how the drugs interact when combined for two to four weeks before you attempt to drive.

Over-the-Counter Medication Can Impact Breathalyzer Results

If you are pulled over for symptoms relating to most prescription medications, you will blow a 0.00 on the breathalyzer unless you have consumed alcohol. However, medications that contain a form of alcohol, like cough syrups, could show up on a breathalyzer test.

A detectable blood alcohol content (BAC) may strengthen the case against you, regardless of whether the alcohol in question affected your ability to drive.

There Are No Definite Legal Standards to Measure Drug-Related Impairment

The law has specific guidelines about the BAC levels that constitute driving while intoxicated. However, there are no definite standards to measure the impairment caused by other medications.

You may be asked to undergo screenings at the hands of a medical professional to determine whether your medication factored into patterns of erratic driving or the occurrence of an accident.

You Are Legally Responsible If You Drive While Impaired

When it comes to DUI charges, it does not matter whether you knew that the medication would impair your driving. You are considered legally responsible if you consume a substance that could potentially impair you and then drive a car.

This legal distinction is one of the reasons why it’s important to err on the side of caution when taking a new medication or combining two medications for the first time.

If you have been charged with a DUI that resulted from the use of prescription or over-the-counter medication, your legal defense is vital.

Consult with an attorney from Lowry Law Firm about your DUI case as soon as possible to learn more about your options.

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