When it comes to drinking and driving, one of the things that can make a bad situation worse is prescription drug use. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the number of prescription drugs provided or ordered per year hit 2.3 billion during the most recent study of physician offices alone. Another 286.2 million were given in the hospital emergency room while 329.2 million were ordered during visits by hospital outpatients. Despite the fact that over 48 percent of the population reported taking one or more medications in the past 30 days, there are many dangers that users are not aware of.
While many prescription drug labels state that the medication should not be taken with alcohol, this fact can become easy to forget if the drug is regularly taken every day. Effects of the medicine can also linger in the systems of some users longer than others, especially women and elderly patients, making it possible that medication will interact with alcohol hours after it has been taken. Mixing some medications with alcohol can lead to increased symptoms, counteraction of the drug’s intended effects and adverse health reactions. Some drivers consume small amounts of alcohol to stay below the legal limit, but reactions with medications can lead to higher levels of intoxication than intended and result in a DUI or DWI.
Some people receive a prescription drug and hang on to a partially used bottle in case they need more later. This may not seem criminal, but carrying that medicine becomes illegal after one year. Police officers can arrest patients who are found with the bottle, and even if the charges are later dropped, the person will still have an arrest on his or her permanent record.
In addition to being unable to carry an expired prescription drug, it is also illegal to place the medication in a different container than the pharmacist gave you. While police officers do not routinely check a person’s medicine cabinet, if you are caught driving while intoxicated, you may be required to list all medications you are taking. If the officer sees a drug that is not in the prescribed bottle, you are at risk of being charged with another criminal offense.
The safest course of action is to keep all prescriptions in the original bottles, discard after one year and read labels carefully before consuming any alcohol. If you have been charged with breaking any of these rules, especially if it was in addition to a DUI or DWI, the next best choice is to contact an experienced attorney who can guide you through the steps to minimize negative effects.