Can You Get A DUI for Prescription Drugs?
Only a few weeks before the U.S. Open, golf legend Tiger Woods was in the news for something much less pleasant. News broke in late May that Woods had been arrested for driving under the influence, but this was not the usual case of drunk driving. Police reports revealed that he blew a .000 in a Breathalyzer test; instead of alcohol, it was prescription drugs that led to Woods’ DUI arrest.
Driving and Prescription Drug Dangers
In 2005, research stated that alcohol was involved in 41 percent of traffic deaths while drugs were involved in 28 percent. Over the past decade, there has been a stark change, with reports now saying that both illegal and prescription drugs are present in 43 percent of traffic deaths. Alcohol, in contrast, is involved in just 37 percent.
The number of Americans who depend on prescription drugs is higher than ever – a recent report revealed that 20 percent of drivers had used a prescription drug in the past two days – and scientists are still on the whole unsure of how these drugs may impact drivers. It is difficult to tell how much is too much, and it is significantly more difficult for police to test for prescription drugs as opposed to alcohol. Many people believe that just because a drug was prescribed to them by their doctor, it must be safe. In fact, drugs like Ambien or OxyContin can have an even more dangerous effect on a driver than alcohol.
DUI Includes Prescription Drugs
Public safety campaigns have proven effective in helping to decrease instances of drunk driving, but many people do not realize that prescription drugs can fall under the same category of driving under the influence. It makes sense that sedatives, painkillers, and muscle relaxers could lead to impaired driving, but even less obvious medications might have a negative effect on drivers. Some anti-anxiety medications can dull alertness and slow reaction time, and stimulants might encourage risk-taking and negatively impact the ability to judge distances. It is challenging for the legal system to determine how to charge someone taking valid prescriptions and find the fine line between a person taking the medications they need and protecting the public from an impaired driver. Because of the widespread prevalence of prescription drugs, it is also likely that members of the jury will have prescriptions of their own and sympathize.
Driving and Marijuana
Prescription drugs, however, are only one facet of the issue. Marijuana was the drug found most often in conjunction with traffic deaths and is associated with a “slightly increased risk: of crashing, according to the study. A “medium increased risk” comes with the use of cocaine and opioids, and a “highly increased risk” is associated with the use of amphetamines. Combining any of these substances with alcohol brings with it the highest risk of all. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration studied weekend, nighttime drivers specifically and found that the percentage of weekend nighttime drivers using illegal drugs had risen from 12.4 percent in 2007 to 15.1 percent in 2013. The use of prescription medications in weekend nighttime drivers also increased, rising from 3.9 percent to 4.9 percent. The largest increase was in drivers’ use of THC, which increased 48 percent between 2007 and 2013. According to the NHTSA’s report, marijuana was more common than alcohol in these drivers.
Illegal and Prescription Drugs a Driving Danger
Tiger Woods’ arrest is a high-profile example of an issue becoming more and more common across the country. Very few people realize that prescription drugs have the same capacity as alcohol to impair drivers, and it is just as dangerous and illegal to drive under the influence of drugs (prescription or illegal) as it is to drink and drive. For the first time in history, drugs have been found in more traffic deaths than alcohol. From painkillers to antidepressants, more and more adults depend on prescription medications as part of their everyday life. Further public education and research about how prescription drugs can mix and impair drivers is necessary in order to keep roads safe.
Driving under the influence of prescription drugs can make a case more complicated than a typical DUI charge. If you have been arrested for a prescription drug DUI, you will want a highly skilled DUI attorney in Cumming representing your case.