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The gray area of prescription medication-induced DUIs

On Behalf of | Jan 29, 2024 | Criminal Defense, Drug Charges, Drunk Driving

It’s a serious criminal offense to drive under the influence (DUI) of either alcohol or drugs in Georgia. An impaired driver threatens themselves and others with their poor motor control and judgment. However, the state’s DUI rules aren’t just limited to liquor and illicit drugs.

Prescription medicines can also impair your ability to drive and lead to DUI charges. It’s important to understand the nuances of state law to avoid any infractions and the consequences that follow.

Legal standards for DUI and prescription medication

According to Georgia law, it’s illegal for anyone to operate a motor vehicle while under the influence of any drug – not just controlled substances. For as long as a drug affects the driver to the extent that it becomes less safe for them to operate their vehicle, it’s already grounds for a DUI.

Whether a medication is prescribed isn’t a defense to a DUI charge if said medicine negatively impacts your ability to drive.

Common medications that can impair drivers

The following medications can impair your ability to drive due to their side effects:

  • Antidepressants: These types of medication can cause fatigue, dizziness and impaired coordination.
  • Antihistamines: Usually found in allergy and cold medicines, these can cause drowsiness and slowed reaction times.
  • Anti-anxiety medications: These medications, which include lprazolam (Xanax), diazepam (Valium), and lorazepam (Ativan), can cause dizziness and drowsiness.
  • Opioids: Drugs like oxycodone, hydrocodone, and morphine, can cause drowsiness, impaired thinking, and slowed reaction times.

There are also certain medications that, when taken together with other medicines, can lead to greater impairment. These include:

  • Antipsychotics: When taken with other drugs that have a sedative effect.
  • Anticonvulsants: When taken with other medications that slow brain activity.
  • Painkillers: When taken with other sedatives.

Certain medications can also magnify the effects of alcohol when taken with liquor. These include:

  • Cough syrups and cold medication
  • Muscle relaxants
  • Sleep aids

The penalties for a prescription drug-induced DUI are the same as those for alcohol or controlled substances-based impairment. Penalties for a first conviction include up to $1,000 in fines and 12 months in imprisonment.

You should be aware of how your medication affects you and bring your prescription or doctor’s note with you when you drive. If you’re facing DUI charges due to prescription medication, consult with a legal professional who may be able to help you navigate your case.