Can your prescription get you a DUI?

It was a stressful day at work, and before heading home, you pop a prescription anti-anxiety pill and get in your car, forgetting the warning label on the bottle that says not to drive after taking your medication. Halfway home, you start to feel a little groggy, but you are confident you can make it safely. Unfortunately, you weave in your lane a few times too many, and it is not long before you see red and blue flashing lights in your rearview mirror. You had nothing to drink, but the officer cites you for driving under the influence anyway. Like many West Virginia residents, you were unaware that a DUI may be one of the consequences of operating a motor vehicle after taking certain medications.

Over-the-counter drugs that you pick up at your local grocery store may be just as impairing as some prescriptions, warns the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Sleeping aids, antidepressants, cold medicine, allergy medication and painkillers can involve varying degrees of impairment, including the following:

  • Drowsiness, dizziness or “brain fog”
  • Difficulty concentrating or making quick decisions
  • Nervousness or jitteriness
  • Blurred vision

Some types of medications for serious conditions can have unexpected side effects or react differently than you are used to if you combine them with another drug, a natural supplement or a drink during dinner. Prescriptions to manage diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease or other illnesses might cause fainting, seizures or other dangerous reactions that could be disastrous when you are behind the wheel.

It is important to follow the instructions on your medication bottle, including refraining from driving a car if instructed. You might wish to speak with your doctor or pharmacist about how to address this problem if you must take a medicine long-term and cannot reasonably stop driving.

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