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Can taking prescription medication lead to a DUI charge?

On Behalf of | Sep 28, 2021 | DUI

While most people have historically linked driving under the influence (DUI) with the use of alcoholic beverages, the definition has expanded in recent years. Officials first expanded the statutes to encompass recreational drugs and other controlled substances, drivers now find themselves at risk if they have taken strong prescription medication.

Prescription medications, legally obtained and taken in a lawful manner, can still lead to a certain degree of driver impairment. According to Florida Statute 316.193, the driver of a vehicle can be considered under the influence of alcoholic beverages or chemical substances “to the extent that the person’s normal faculties are impaired.” Prescription medication is now so strong that there are often challenging side effects, including blurred vision, drowsiness, inability to focus, slowed reaction times and dizziness.

Various categories of prescription medication are more likely to lead to impaired cognitive ability and loss of fine motor control, including:

  • Opioid pain relievers such as OxyContin, Vicodin or morphine
  • Medication used to control anxiety or depression such as Xanax or Prozac
  • Cold, flu and allergy medication
  • Sleeping pills
  • Diet pills or medication containing stimulants such as caffeine, ephedrine or pseudoephedrine.

A Florida law enforcement officer might stop a driver on suspicion of prescription drug DUI in much the same manner as a stop involving alcoholic beverages. In these situations, a breath test would likely produce inconclusive results. While a standard field sobriety test might alert the officer that the driver was not in control of his or her normal faculties, the prescription drug DUI arrest will likely include a chemical test for blood or urine to determine the presence of a substance in the driver’s system.