Prescription drugs may have side effects, which should be clearly displayed on their containers and accompanying fact sheets. Unfortunately, many patients ignore this information and even those who are attentive can find themselves in uncomfortable situations. While most DUI charges involve alcohol or illegal drugs, some stem from use of prescription drugs that impair driving abilities.
Impaired Driving Due to Prescription Drug Use
Xanax is a brand name for the prescription drug alprazolam, which is used to treat panic and anxiety disorders. These drugs are in the benxodiazepine family that functions by decreasing brain levels of abnormal excitement. Xanax and other alprazolams are sold as tablets and concentrated liquids, both taken orally either in the morning or multiple times a day, based on the form and type. These drugs should be taken only as directed but even then, they can cause side effects.
Common side effects of alprazolam include light-headedness, drowsiness, dizziness, tiredness, and headaches. Each of these symptoms can distract a driver or otherwise affect ability to operate a motor vehicle effectively. Confusion, coordination issues, memory problems, and hallucinations are among the more serious side effects and these can cause erratic driving. A police officer may take notice and pull the driver over for suspected DUI.
The unsuspecting driver may become nervous and apologize, stating that the medication may be responsible for the behavior. In some states, this statement serves as admission of DUI, which can result in fines, license suspension, and even jail time. An individual driving while impaired by a legal drug may face the same punishment as a driver who is legally intoxicated or under the influence of an illegal drug.
Currently, there are no standards regarding the amount of a particular drug that will cause driving impairment. If applicable, a prescription drug label warns the user against operating machinery including a motor vehicle. While drunk driving arrests have decreased in recent years, approximately 16 percent of individuals driving at night are under the influence of drugs that can potentially impair their abilities according to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA).
The NHTSA is currently researching methods to assess driver impairment due to prescription and other legal drugs. In the meantime, law enforcement officials rely on visual observation and other evidence when making DUI arrests. This approach is far from accurate, so individuals charged with DUI due to prescription drug use should consult DUI lawyers regarding their options.