Sometimes, following doctors' orders can land you in legal trouble. Many people who generally act cautiously and would never get behind the wheel after even one drink may overlook the impairment potential of their prescription medications.
Charges of Driving Under the Influence of Drugs can ensue even if you take your prescription completely according to instructions. Consuming any substance that affects your ability to drive may give rise to criminal charges.
Effects not always predictable
Many medications have significant side effects. Often, your doctor and your pharmacist will discuss common effects. This does not mean all of these effects, or even any at all, will affect you specifically. On the other hand, some people experience unusual effects which are typically not included in the usual list of warnings. For this reason, whether you are beginning a new medication or changing a dosage, you may want to wait and determine how it affects you before you drive. Some people experience changes due to switching from generic to brand, or vice versa.
Common effects that can cause impairment
Some prescription medications have particularly common and strong side effects that can compromise your ability to drive safely.
Benzodiazepines, often used to treat anxiety and seizures, may cause drowsiness, impaired coordination and vertigo. Prescription painkillers containing codeine may cause fatigue, anxiety, dizziness and slowed reaction times. Sleeping medications not only induce drowsiness, but may also lead to dizziness and memory loss. Over-the-counter allergy, cold and cough medicines may also cause sleepiness and impair the ability to make judgments, focus and react promptly.
Protecting your rights
If an officer stops you on suspicion of DUI, it is in your best interest to avoid discussing your medications. Just because you took medicine does not mean you were actually impaired or that any perceived driving mistake came as an effect of impairment through drugs. Likewise, agreeing to undergo a field sobriety test can harm your case; for many people, the same condition that necessitates the medication can lead to poor performance on this test. Contacting an attorney promptly can increase the effectiveness of your defense.