Very often people call my office and are surprised they were arrested for DUI after taking their prescribed medication. The misunderstanding stems from the over-reliance on the advice of physicians and not using common sense and reason.
The laws involving DUI of prescription drugs are no different from alcohol-related DUI. It is unlawful to drive a motor vehicle while under the influence of prescription drugs to the extent that it makes a person less safe to drive. "Less Safe" is a legal term of art that essentially means to be not as safe to drive than if the driver had not taken the medication.
Is Being Under a Doctor's Care a Defense?
No. While it may create sympathy for accused, it is not a defense. Every driver's first duty is the safety of others on the road. A doctor's role is to treat disease and pain. Doctors are not police officers, nor are they driver education instructors. They cannot guard patients outside of their office.
Advice When Prescribed Medication:
When prescribed a new medication, abstain from driving during the first 24 hours to monitor how the drug affects motor skills and cognition. Ask others to observe your behavior and to test your ability to have normal cognitive and motor functions. In the event the medication causes impairment, go back to the doctor and ask for an adjustment in dosage or ask to try a different drug.
Additionally, almost all medications interact with other medications and with alcohol. Refrain from the use of alcohol while taking drugs that interact with it. Finally, never forget to tell each of your physicians every medication you take. That will keep your doctor from prescribing a new medication that may negatively interact with other drugs you take. It may save you from a DUI, and it could save your life while protecting the lives of others on the road. Take care.