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Can you get a DUI on prescription medication?

On Behalf of | May 28, 2024 | DUI

Driving under the influence (DUI) charges are commonly associated with alcohol and illegal drugs – but did you know that you can end up facing charges over your use of prescription (and even non-prescription) medications?

DUI laws, including those in Alaska, are typically written broadly. In this state, you can be guilty of driving under the influence if you operate a motor vehicle “while under the influence of an alcoholic beverage, intoxicating liquor, inhalant or any controlled substance, singly or in combination.” What does that mean?

Your allergy drugs can get you into trouble

If you’re already breaking out the Benadryl and Zyrtec for the summer, you may be having a hard time staying awake – and that can prove disastrous behind the wheel. Even if you’ve already adjusted to your allergy meds, you could find yourself feeling like one beer could do for three, which could also lead to charges.

Prescription painkillers can also be a problem

A lot of prescription narcotics advise you “not to operate heavy machinery” while you’re taking them or until you know how your body reacts to the drugs – and they’re not talking about construction tools. It’s a reminder not to get behind the wheel of your car while you’re in an altered mental state. 

Combinations of drugs can cause unpredictable results

Finally, there’s always a chance that a new medication – one that isn’t even usually sedating – could interact with the drugs you already take and cause you to have difficulty navigating the road, staying awake or focusing.  That can easily lead to weaving in your lane, hitting curbs and otherwise making mistakes that lead to traffic stops.

If you’re pulled over on suspicion of drunk driving, never discuss your medications with the police officer or use them as an explanation for what happened in hopes of avoiding a charge. That’s basically admitting that you’re guilty. Instead, take a moment to breathe and exercise your right to remain silent until you can look into your defenses.