Can You Get a Dui for Driving Under the Influence of Prescription Drugs?


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What Is Driving Under the Influence?

Driving under the influence is against the law in all states, and some jurisdictions use different language, such as driving while intoxicated (DWI). Most states consider driving under the influence a felony offense. Other states consider first offenses as misdemeanors and subsequent DUI offenses as felonies. State laws have some distinct nuances, but there are generally two types of offenses related to driving under the influence.

Driving Under the Influence Per Se Cases

States that have stricter laws against driving under the influence may file charges under “per se” conditions. This means that it is illegal to operate a vehicle with any level of drugs in your system.

Driving Under the Influence Impairment Cases

For states that have driving under the influence of prescription medications laws based on impairment, there are specific criteria that need to be considered prior to filing charges against you. This may include levels of drugs within your system that exceed a certain threshold, failing field sobriety tests, and demonstrating the inability to safely and responsibly operate a motor vehicle.

What Drugs Are Included in an Offense Related to Driving Under the Influence?

States may specify which drugs are considered for cases involving driving under the influence. In general, you can be charged with driving under the influence if you demonstrate that you cannot safely operate a motor vehicle, regardless of the drug that you have ingested. This includes both illegal substances, such as meth and heroin, as well as legal substances, such as alcohol and prescription medications.

The FDA has identified certain types of prescription medications that are known to affect a person’s ability to drive any type of vehicle. The side effects of the medications may be short-term or long-term. If you operate a vehicle after taking these medications, you are at risk of being charged with driving under the influence:

• Benzodiazepines and other prescription medications for anxiety
• Certain types of antidepressant medications
• Medications that help you sleep
• Muscle relaxers
• Antipsychotic medications
• Anti-seizure and antiepileptic medications
• Medications containing codeine
• Some diarrhea medications
• Stimulant medications
• Medications for motion sickness
• Certain medications for allergies and cold symptoms
• Medical cannabis and some CBD products

Prescribed Drugs and Driving

Some prescribed drugs have side effects that affect your ability to operate a motor vehicle, such as opioids and antidepressants. Prescription medications that impair driving and other activities are clearly labeled by the pharmacist. If you take one of these medications, follow all the instructions carefully, even if you feel like you can drive safely. Like alcohol and other drugs, prescription medications affect your cognitive function, judgment, and thought processes. Additionally, these types of prescription medications can make you tired, anxious, and dizzy. Trying to navigate traffic and pedestrians under these circumstances is almost impossible.

How Often Do People Drive Under the Influence of Prescribed Drugs?

In 2016, a report was released documenting that almost 20% of people drive after taking their opioid-based prescription medications. According to MADD, approximately 5% of people who take prescription medications drive within two hours of taking their doses. The report also indicates that approximately half of the people who take prescription medications don’t consider driving under the influence a serious crime. Less than 20% believe it to be a minor traffic offense.

What Happens After an Arrest or Conviction Driving Under the Influence?

Driving under the influence of prescribed medications has many consequences, including legal and financial, as well as in your personal and professional relationships. Understanding the far-reaching effects of choosing to drive while under the influence of prescription drugs may help you make healthier choices, such as using public transportation or asking friends and family to drive.

Legal Effects of Driving Under the Influence of Prescribed Drugs

Each state defines laws for cases involving driving under the influence. In general, if you are found guilty of driving under the influence of prescribed medications, you may face:

• Suspension of your driver’s license
• Ignition interlock on your vehicle
• Traffic misdemeanor conviction
• Felony conviction
• Jail time
• Fines

Financial Effects of Driving Under the Influence

Whether you are convicted of driving under the influence or only arrested, there are many financial implications. You will need to attend court, and this means time away from work. You may also need to hire a lawyer for your court appearances. If you are convicted, you face fines and court costs. Jail time means that you are unable to work, and you lose income. The court may also restrict your driving, and you may not be able to get to and from work.

Driving Under the Influence Affects Relationships

The effects of a driving under the influence on your personal and professional relationships can be significant. Your friends and family may no longer trust you to drive on your own. They may also refuse to ride in a vehicle with you. From a professional perspective, many employers have policies against hiring people with any type of conviction involving driving under the influence whether it is for a misdemeanor or felony. Your current employer has the right to restrict your duties if you perform tasks that require operating machinery, making high-level decisions, managing finances, and other key functions.

It May Be Time for Prescription Drug Use Treatment

Even though your medications are prescribed by a doctor, there may be signs that you need help with your substance use. Prescription opioid medications are highly addictive. Even if you follow the instructions from your physician, the medications should not disrupt your life.

In addition to being arrested and convicted of driving under the influence, other experiences include financial, legal, and relationship issues. You should take these signs seriously and seek professional help. With treatment for your substance use disorder, you learn how to manage your medical condition and usage of prescribed medications while maintaining a healthy balance in your life.

Signs of a Prescription Drug Use Disorder

Signs and symptoms of a prescription drug use disorder may be subtle or obvious. Each type of prescribed medication triggers distinctive signs of abuse. We recommend that you take a self-assessment and also ask close family and friends if they notice any of these signs.

Signs of Opioid Prescription Addiction

Signs of addiction to medications that contain opioids include:

• Problems with balance and coordination
• Pain sensitivity
• Reduced breathing rate
• Constipation
• Nausea and vomiting
• Needing to increase dose to achieve the same benefits

Signs of Sedative and Anti-anxiety Prescription Addiction

Signs of addiction to anti-anxiety medications and sedatives may include:

• Problems with balance and coordination
• Memory issues
• Reduced breathing rate
• Trouble concentrating
• Difficulty speaking clear, such as slurring
• Confusion

Signs of Stimulant Prescription Addiction

Signs of addiction to stimulant medications may include:

• Little to no interest in eating
• Paranoia and excessive alertness
• Increased body temperature
• High blood pressure
• Trouble sleeping
• Anxiety or feeling agitated
• Abnormal heartbeat

Behaviors Linked to Prescription Substance Use Disorders

Once an addiction to prescribed medications sets it, it takes over almost every part of your life. Behaviors that are known to be linked to substance use disorders, including prescribed medications, are:

• Getting medications from more than one physician
• Changes in sleep patterns
• Taking more than prescribed
• Hostility, mood changes, and other extreme behaviors
• Being secretive
• Selling prescription medications
• Forging prescriptions
• Stealing medications
• Problems making sound, healthy decisions

Treatment for Prescription Drug Use Issues

Liberty Bay Recovery Center offers inpatient and outpatient programs for prescription drug use. You may need to detox as a first step. During this phase, we provide medical oversight and linkage to a counselor as your body eliminates the drugs from your system. The next step is to work with our counselors and medical team to learn how to manage your prescription drug use while making healthier choices. This phase may include individual and group counseling as well as other types of support services.

What to Expect During Prescription Drug Withdrawal

If you have tried to reduce the number of prescribed drugs that you take each day and have had unpleasant symptoms, this is a sign that your body is chemically dependent on the drug. Fortunately, Liberty Bay Recovery Center specializes in medically managed detox. Our approach ensures that your withdrawal from drugs that are prescribed is as comfortable as possible. We also provide support from counselors to help you deal with any emotions that arise, such as depression, anxiety, anger, and frustration.

Some of the most common symptoms that arise during prescription drug detox are:

• Higher heart rate
• Fatigue
• Nausea and vomiting
• Aches in the joints and muscles
• Excessive perspiration
• Tremors and shaking
• Feeling anxious or irritable

Counseling Based on a Dual Diagnosis Approach

At Liberty Bay Recovery Center, we understand that substance use disorders are founded upon underlying emotional issues. Prescription drugs add another facet because you take the medications for medical purposes. As part of your individual and group therapy, we help you identify any emotional challenges that contribute to your use of prescribed drugs, such as trauma, depression, isolation, anger, and more. When we can focus with you on these issues, you are able to make healthier choices while taking medications that are prescribed by your doctor.

Tools and Techniques for Real Life

When you choose Liberty Bay Recovery Center, you learn how to better manage life and make healthy choices. We focus on the challenges that you face each day and guide you to new perspectives that help you feel empowered. Once you complete rehab, you have a new tool kit and plenty of practice with new techniques for managing your health and well-being.

Liberty Bay Recovery Center is Here to Help

Liberty Bay Recovery Center is fully staffed with a medical team and substance use disorder counselors who are here to help you. We offer on-site detox from prescription medications as well as counseling and therapy services. We can diagnose any underlying mental health issues that contribute to your issues with using prescribed medications. Our counselors are trained to help clients overcome the effects of their choices through individual and group therapy. Immediately after you reach out to us, we connect you with a team who can walk you through the process and get you into treatment quickly.

A Safe Place to Recover and Heal

Feeling safe is an important part of successful rehabilitation and recovery from a prescription medication substance use disorder. At Liberty Bay Recovery Center, you will never feel judged for your current situation. We listen with compassion and understanding while proving guidance and encouragement. Our goal is to provide you with new tools so that you can maintain your physical and emotional health. If you need to continue using prescription medications because of a medical condition, we work closely with your primary physician to ensure your successful completion of rehab and recovery.

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