Xanax DUI Cases Unfortunately Becoming More Common in Florida
By: Mike Stetzer
Driving under the influence of the prescription anti-anxiety drug Xanax and alcohol can be very dangerous to say the least, as a recent St. Petersburg Times story depicted. Unfortunately, Florida police have been encountering more and more drivers who are under the influence of this combination.
As just one example, Florida's Pinellas County found that 177 DUI suspects had Xanax in their systems last year. While that figure may not seem like a lot at first, compare it to the number from 1998, when Xanax was prescribed to fewer people and found in only four drivers suspected of DUI.
Xanax is generally known as alprazolam and prescribed to treat panic disorders. While this drug is not as strong as methadone or even as popular as some painkillers, Xanax does intensify the intoxicating effect of alcohol. To make matters worse, the pill can create a euphoric feeling within users, making it popular for people looking for a quick "high."
The story cited a statistic stating that 37.5 million prescriptions of Xanax were written last year; an increase of nearly 8 million prescriptions from 2005. Furthermore, Xanax is easily available illegally and can be purchased from people with prescriptions or from less than reputable Web sites.
Dr. Raphael Miguel, the program director of pain medicine at the University of South Florida College of Medicine, said in the story that the combination of Xanax with alcohol may be as potent as three or more drinks. With that in mind, the story detailed a fatal drunken driving accident in which this fact was apparent.
Last March, 21-year-old Natalie Rodriques was charged with killing a pedestrian and leaving the scene of a crash. Rodriques told police that she had a prescription for taking one milligram of Xanax four times a day at the time of the accident. Her blood alcohol content (BAC) level was 0.10 percent, which is obviously past the 0.08 percent legal limit under Florida DUI law.
Two months before that drunken driving accident, Rodriques was arrested for DUI during a traffic stop. She "spontaneously" told the arresting officer that she had taken Xanax before that Florida DUI arrest.
Hillsborough Sheriff's Sgt. Ronald Harrison works in a Florida DUI task force by the name of Operation 3D and said in the story that he encounters drivers on all sorts of drugs. With that said, he ranked Xanax, cocaine and marijuana as being the most common drugs that suspects are found to be under the influence of during arrests.
Even scarier, the story detailed a report by the Florida Medical Examiners Commission stating that 456 people overdosed on alprazolam last year. In fact, this drug was just behind cocaine, methadone and the painkiller oxycodone in terms of drugs causing the most overdoses in the state in 2006.
Ultimately, the story about Xanax teaches some important lessons. To begin with, prescription drugs should only be used by people to whom they are prescribed. Furthermore, Xanax and other prescription drugs can be a very dangerous combination with alcohol. What might seem like one drink may be equivalent to a couple more when under the influence of a prescription drug like Xanax.