Prescription Drugs: The Overlooked Danger for DUI


In the discussion surrounding DUI, driving under the influence of prescription drugs is often overlooked in favor of the much more widespread driving under the influence of alcohol. Many states have recognized the danger of driving while impaired by drugs, and have coupled strict drug possession penalties with DUI penalties specifically targeted toward those convicted of driving while high on drugs.

However, despite these legal measures targeted toward drugged driving, prescription drugs are often missing as part of the discussion, by lawmakers, public officials and drivers alike.

The fact is, using prescription drugs can cause impairment as great or even greater than using illegal drugs, which can be dangerous to both the driver as well as others on the road.

Another consideration when discussing prescription drugs is that some prescription drugs enhance alcohol absorption rates and therefore can affect your body's processing of any alcohol that you have consumed. This can lead to a potentially dangerous misperception of your level of intoxication.

Drugs like Codeine, Percodan, Xanax, Valium, and a host of other drugs are labeled with instructions to avoid these drugs when operating a motor vehicle or heavy machinery.

However, when treated as a recommendation on a prescription bottle, some consumers may not realize that criminal penalties can result from impairment just as with illegal drugs and alcohol.

Trying to beg off by pleading ignorance won't work when the danger is listed right on the medication; judges in a DUI case won't buy it.

In some cases, individuals have promulgated the idea that using prescription drugs just to get a high in place of illegal drugs makes them safer. Oxycodone products, Vicodin, Dexedrine and many other drugs crop up at parties as drugs of choice.

However, when impaired and behind the wheel, it doesn't matter what drug the driver has taken: any potential damage or accidents are treated the same way.

A story in a recent edition of the St. Petersburg (FL) Times underscores the potential danger of believing that prescription drugs are safer than illegal drugs.

A Florida man named Steve Alfano gave his 15-year-old son powerful prescription drugs and taught him how to crush and snort the pills in order to teach him "how to party right," as the news reported.

However, the youngster was found dead with six drugs in his system, including oxycodone, hydrocodone and methadone, as well as the antidepressant Xanax. The elder Alfano now faces third-degree charges for murder for giving his son the drugs.

It's a tragic story, but a powerful reminder that prescriptions drugs, while useful in the recommended dosages given by physicians, can be as deadly as any illegal drugs available.

The consequences of driving while under the influence of these powerful prescription drugs can be harsh; whether or not it was intentional, driving under the influence of prescription drugs will be viewed unfavorably by the law, and can result in fines, jail time and loss of driving privileges, and even further criminal penalties.

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